Brookline art exhibit features the work of women who became artists in middle age

NEVER TOO LATE: “When I was growing up, there was a mindset that either you were born an artist or you weren’t,’’ said 51-year-old Lola Baltzell of Brookline. “If you weren’t identified in childhood as someone who was good at drawing, you weren’t encouraged to do art.’’

It wasn’t until she was approaching 50 that, in Baltzell’s words, she discovered “that whole paradigm is untrue. You can be an artistic person even if you are not able to draw accurately.’’

In her youth, Baltzell fit the “not artistic’’ mold, and she embarked upon a fulfilling career as a social worker. And then at the age of 32, she traveled to Bali, where she spontaneously took a couple of lessons from a local artist working out of a grass hut.


“It sparked something in me,’’ she recalls. “I thought ‘Wow, look, I can do art! And I never even knew it!’ ’’

That was almost 20 years ago. Though she has continued her career in social work, Baltzell now believes that “my true work is my art.’’ She works in mixed media, particularly encaustic painting.

An exhibition at the Brookline Access Television gallery at Brookline High School has helped Baltzell realize that her story is not particularly unusual.

Called “New Adventures: Artistic Expression in the Second Half of Life,’’ the exhibition features works by seven women artists, including Baltzell, who are now over the age of 50 and first set out to create art well into adulthood.

The show was the brainchild of Brookline resident Karma Kitaj, who herself discovered art in middle age. It was her brother, R.B. Kitaj, who was considered the artist in the family when she was growing up. He became an internationally recognized painter, while she embarked on a career in psychotherapy. Several years after her brother’s death, she first tried painting for herself — and discovered a passion for it.

In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Kitaj hosts a regular show on Brookline Access TV called “Alivelihood: New Adventures as We Age.’’ The theme of the show, said Kitaj, is people who are embarking on new pursuits after age 50.


“Art takes me into a spiritual place,’’ she said.’’ It allows me to be in the present, and everything else falls away. The work I do as a psychotherapist is much more cognitive; I have to be thinking all the time. With art, I can just exist, just be engaged in the moment.’’

Another artist in the show, Sandra Shuman, spent the first few decades of her adult life in academia, as a professor of German literature. Working with students, she hit on a method of journaling to help them with creative expression, which led to her leading workshops and eventually writing a book on how to develop one’s sense of creativity.

Yet it didn’t occur to her until she was in her 60s that she could apply these ideas to developing her own artistic abilities.

“First, I was just excited to think that I could help other people tap into their own creativity. Then I began developing as an artist myself. My painting has grown out of my interest in people’s inner lives, and in my own. I use it as a way to get into meditative flow, to expand and enhance my ability to express myself,’’ said Shuman.

“All of the women in this exhibit have in common that we are pursuing art later in life as a means for self-enrichment and to increase our sense of aliveness as we age. What I want people to come to this exhibition understanding is that you may feel like you’re getting old, but your creativity never gets old.’’


The exhibition can be viewed throughout this month at Brookline Access Television, Vocational Arts Building, Brookline High School, 46 Tappan St. For gallery hours, go to

YOUTH ON STAGE: Concord Youth Theatre presents “Once Upon This Island’’ on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Featuring a cast of talented young performers from across the area, the ensemble will perform the hit Broadway musical at the Concord Museum, 200 Lexington Road, due to construction taking place at its regular facility. Tickets are $13, and can be purchased at or at the door.

ALL BEETHOVEN: The Triple Helix Piano Trio launches its stint as ensemble in residence at the Rivers School Conservatory with a three-concert series titled “Beethoven and His Vibrant Legacy.’’

The first of the set of free performances takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a preconcert discussion at 7 p.m., in the Rivera Recital Hall on the Rivers School campus, 333 Winter St. in Weston.

For more information, go to

BOOKS AND BEER: National Public Radio correspondent Dan Zevin will discuss his latest book, “Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad,’’ Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, 333 Nahanton St. in Newton.

Zevin, who is known for his humorous depictions of life as a parent and stay-at-home dad, will be joined by Rabbi Joseph Meszler, whose book “A Man’s Responsibility: A Jewish Guide to Being a Son, a Partner in Marriage, a Father and a Community Leader’’ is a provocative look at men’s spiritual growth.

A craft-beer tasting, sponsored by Homebrew Emporium of Cambridge, will follow the presentation. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at or 617-965-5226.

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