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As part of American Artist Appreciation Month in August, The Legacy Willow Bend is honoring the artists who call the senior living community home. Artists such as Ruth Litwin, 85, and Artyce Colen, 88, both enjoy the benefits of creating something uniquely their own. For Litwin, it's the peaceful process of painting or the power found in creating a sculpture, and for Colen the joy found in the concentration of cutting a design into a piece of wood. Litwin's work has been featured around the world most prominently on display in U.S. embassies. Today she continues to paint or sculpt at her leisure, in addition to work as a print maker, finding joy in the simplicity of creating for herself. Like Litwin, Colen is accomplished in her own right as her work has been displayed in galleries across the country, and continues to create at her personal studio, where she can be found three times a week working on her next creation. By sharing their stories of success, these talented artists hope to inspire others to try something new and highlight the fact that anyone can become an artist at any age.

Litwin calls herself a late bloomer because she didn't pick up a paintbrush until nearly age 40, but she had a lifelong desire to try painting. Litwin began her artistic journey by jumping right into a painting class, before moving on to classes for sculpture and picking up private lessons to hone her skills. Litwin saw her work displayed in galleries and U.S. Embassies around the world when she was part of the Art and Embassy program in Washington D.C. for eight years. Additionally, she sculpted the "Eternal Light" displayed in the sanctuary at The Legacy Willow Bend. The Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance will soon display her art as well. The piece was commissioned in remembrance of those lost in the Holocaust, and as a promise to ensure a better world for future generations. The sculpture, titled "Grasping for Life," is a deeply personal piece for Litwin that the museum will showcase.

"I've worked very hard to achieve the success that I have," said Litwin. "It's been a joy over the years, and I can't imagine not having art as part of my life. Art was something I always wanted to pursue but never had the time for while raising a family. When I started, it was like a piece of myself had finally found what it was looking for. Art provides me with a sense of well-being that allows me to create and express myself. There's an incredible sense of pride in making something and seeing others enjoy it, and every single piece that's left my studio over the years brings me a sense of pride and fulfillment."

Similarly, art has provided Artyce Colen with joy since she was a little girl, though she's come quite a long way from coloring books and childhood drawings. Colen majored in art during college, but like Litwin, she waited until her kids were grown before picking up her paintbrush again. She began with oil painting and took classes to get back in the habit, and it wasn't long before she started working in her own studio again. Like many artists, Colen's preferred mediums have changed over the years, and she now finds her true passion in woodworking. After deciding to begin woodworking, she signed up to take classes to learn the fundamentals and proper use of the tools. She was one of just a few women in the classes, and her classmates endearingly made comments when she collected bits and scraps of wood to take home for practice. Today, Colen can often be found at her studio designing various pieces that range from elaborate hanging pieces to small decorative boxes and other designs. Recently, she started painting them to further expand on the overall design.

"When I'm working on a piece I block out the world," said Colen. "I get lost in time and lose track of what's around me as I concentrate on the piece in front of me. More than a few times my husband called the studio to remind me that I have to come home. I go to my studio a few times a week, mostly because I have the overwhelming need to work. I cut and paint each piece myself and insert the screws that hold the bigger ones together. It's quite the undertaking, and it provides an immense sense of pride knowing that I've made something that will last beyond me. It's difficult to give it away, but I know that if I didn't then no one would be able enjoy it as much as I have."

"At The Legacy Willow Bend, we believe strongly in the importance of the arts and the benefits they can provide in our lives," said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend. "Having accomplished and talented individuals such as Ruth and Artyce as a part of our community is incredibly inspiring, and we are proud to celebrate their accomplishments. Art means something different to all of us and offers a sense of connectivity with the world, and by celebrating those who bring it into the world. Ruth and Artyce are prime examples of two amazing ladies who have accomplished their dreams. We love seeing many of our residents participate in art classes, even if it's the first time to try it. We hope that these ladies' stories inspire others who thought of picking up a brush or learning to mold clay to try something new."

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