“ACCIDENTAL” ARTIST BETTY BRUDNICK
By Betty Brudnick and Sue Wurster
At BOLLI, our membership includes those from all proverbial walks of life, and yet, we all seem to be very much on the same path—the one leading to personal enrichment. Betty Brudnick is no exception. I asked Betty what brought her to BOLLI, and this is what she said.
“My husband Irv and I had been members at HILR (Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement), and at lunch one day, a friend said to us, ‘You know, there’s someone at Brandeis I think you two should meet. His name is Bernie Reisman. He is thinking of starting a similar program and would really benefit from any help you could give him.’ So, we met with Bernie, and it wasn’t long before BALI (Brandeis Adult Learning Institute as it was called then) was born. With the help of other seekers, we built the foundation of BALI, reached out to other retired people, and attracted over 300 to our first informational meeting. It was an exceedingly hot day, the air conditioning quit, and the power went out—and yet, our overflow audience stayed. We began courses, twice a week, at the Gosman Athletic Facility taught by friends and other knowledgeable volunteers.
Discovering that she is truly a BOLLI “original” was pretty exciting–particularly with our 20th anniversary approaching. But what about your art work? I asked.
In addition to Betty’s career as a social worker, community activist, political junkie, and member of several boards, much of her time and energy has also revolved, of course, around being a wife, a mother, and a daughter to ailing parents. Art had never really been part of the picture.
“Except for starting to study piano when I was 7 (which continued through my college years,” she says, “I would say that the left side of my brain was dominant.” She goes on to add that, “My interest in the arts didn’t become apparent until middle age when an accident incapacitated me for several months. At that point, I began to examine my life. And I had an epiphany.”
“I realized that I had spent my life focused on others’ needs, and now, it was time to focus on my own.” She had always liked creating with her hands—knitting, doing macramé, weaving—but, other than doodling in her notebooks when bored at school, she had never considered drawing or painting. So, she decided to see if she might have any artistic talent of that sort and enrolled in a drawing class at the MFA. She loved it, and soon moved on to a watercolor class, then art lessons in Gloucester, and, finally, working with a watercolor atelier at the Radcliffe Seminars. “Those were such wonderful years,” she muses. “Learning, painting, showing work with inspirational artists.”
While she did a good deal of watercolor painting over those years, she continued, of course, to focus on others. After developing a job bank and doing other projects at the Council on Aging in Malden, Betty says she found herself wanting to explore other forms of creativity as well.
“It seems that nature hates a vacuum,” she indicates, “and so, while I was shopping at the farmers’ market in Sarasota, I stopped at a booth that had some interesting pieces of glass.” Her conversation with the artist led to an invitation to try her hand at fusing glass herself, and “I found my new avocation.” Her tutor was a young Greek minister who was also pursuing an advanced degree in theology which, she says, led to “lots of interesting discussions while I learned to cut, shape, and fuse glass.” She soon discovered and joined the Southwest Florida Glass Alliance, a large community of ardent glass collectors in the area, and began to explore both the history of the glass art movement and its artists in this country. “I was even invited to the homes of many collectors. How could I resist?” Ultimately, in addition to doing her own glass work, she began collecting pieces by Italian, Japanese, and American glass artists.
“As far as I know, there were no artists in my family,” Betty says. “Architects and musicians, yes, but no painters. My children’s talents lie in other directions—not visual art. It’s too soon to tell, but one of my granddaughters is an art history major!”
Personally, I can add that, having taught two of those granddaughters, I know that one is a highly accomplished pianist herself. So, clearly, the piano lessons Betty embarked on when she was 7 tapped into her artistic side–and remain firmly ensconced in the family gene pool.
Overall, Betty indicates, “It’s been rewarding to watch BOLLI’s growth to a year-round community. Irv would have been so pleased.” It’s been equally as rewarding to dive into painting and glass work, and she looks forward to whatever avocation comes next.
There’s nothing I like more than getting to know the people around me even better! I hope you’ll leave a comment for Betty in the box below. It means a lot to each of our profiled members to hear from others. And I’d love to hear from you about you or other BOLLI members we can all get to know better.