Jorge looks at the red ribbon in front of him and at the children and young adults, staff and friends gathered in a hallway with colorful paintings of flowers, animals and even Michael Jackson.

“Thank you St. Mary’s, for all of the workers working hard,” Jorge, president of St. Mary’s Art Club, tells the crowd at the grand opening of our Artists-in-Residence Gallery. He turns toward Shirley Justice, our community liaison, and artist Karen Ludwig, who volunteers with the club, and adds, “And thank you for helping me, making my dream come true.”

Then, as Shirley and Karen hold the ribbon taut, Jorge cuts it with a pair of large golden scissors as the guests applaud.

Karen said all the artists take a lot of pride — and joy — in their work. Some club members, like KoKo, choose colors and subjects, then create their masterpieces with hand-over-hand assistance from volunteers. Others, like Jorge, paint freehand, sometimes using photographs for inspiration. “The passion that they have for painting becomes another way they can communicate,” Karen said.

Special thanks to Ashley Williams, visitor services coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach, who visited the Home to advise us on how to create the gallery and taught us how to hang and label artwork just like they do at the museum.

Jorge, who had a traumatic brain injury, lived at St. Mary’s for about four years, during which he worked hard to improve his speech and relearn to walk. He left us a special gift that now hangs in our renovated lobby: a painting of Embrace, the mermaid statue outside our entrance.

Watch a video of Jorge cutting the ribbon.

And of course, please visit the Home to see for yourself what these talented individuals can do!