GARDINER — Florence Barter didn’t know there was an art show on Friday afternoon. If she had known, she might not have shown her work.

But she had little time to decide, and those who worked at the Alzheimer’s Care Center on Dresden Avenue egged her on. Her paintings of flowers and a chicken hung on the wall for residents, family members and others to see in the center’s common room.

“They came out pretty good,” said Barter, who once lived on Barter Island in Boothbay. “I’m surprised.”

Barter, 91, is among 20 residents and clients of the center who paint once a month with Anita Morrissey, a Sidney artist who has come in monthly for two years with painting supplies and donated paper, inviting people to experiment with art.

Joyce Hemeon, the facility’s director, said people with Alzheimer’s disease, which destroys memory and other mental functions over time, typically have short attention spans. But Hemeon said her residents often can paint for an hour or more. Morrissey said she has been taken aback by their “expressive and colorful” work.

“It’s special to have 20 people engaged and feel proud of what they’ve done,” Hemeon said.

Seascapes and paintings of flowers, children and animals were on display, and many of the paintings depicted residents’ fondest memories from childhood or early adulthood. Especially in earlier stages of the disease, it’s often easier for people with Alzheimer’s to recall events from long ago than recent ones.

“They’re still there,” Morrissey said. “The essence of the person is still there, and it comes out in their work.”

On a wall was a Caribbean seascape painted by Peg Montague, a 79-year-old Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native. She said she once lived there while her husband worked for a phone company in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she snorkeled, went scuba diving and gardened. She often drew there, calling it “a nice way to meet people” and learn about her surroundings.

Now she tends the garden and paints at the center. It has been more than 50 years since she and her husband lived along the Caribbean Sea, and she said she hasn’t been back since — not that returning doesn’t cross her mind.

“During the winter here sometimes, I think about it,” Montague said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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