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St. Petersburg seniors receive national recognition for their artwork

For both artists, painting was a new hobby they started later in life.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Some of us have picked up new hobbies in the pandemic. From breadmaking and gardening to musical instruments, the list is endless. 

For two senior citizens at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, they've spent the last few years diving into their recent hobby of painting. 

Anita Choate is 93 years old. She credits her St. Petersburg independent, assisted living, and memory care community for encouraging her to pick up a brush and try out her artistic skills. 

“Just give it a try," Choate said. "I really enjoyed it and didn’t realize could have enjoyed it for many years before."

Choate has been painting for three years now after taking an art class at her retirement community. 

“It’s never too late," she said. "You need to give it a try. When I first retired, I took piano lessons and I enjoyed that. 

"Which I always wanted to do my entire life but my parents could not afford and now it’s the painting I’ve got an interest in."

Her apartment walls are adorned with her work, showcasing anything from abstract art to landscapes to the house she raised her family in. 

“You can get lost in your paintings and time just flies," Choate said.

Just two floors below Choate is another resident artist, Ed Renkowicz. At 93 years old, he has found a new passion. 

In between rounds of golf, he sits in front of a canvas, painting the scenic sunsets of Florida. 

The retired airforce veteran said he started painting after his friends encouraged him into taking a class. After taking weekly classes, he decided to buy his own supplies and work outside of the classroom. 

"Eventually I purchased my own equipment, I'm a big customer at Michael's," Renkowicz explained. 

Following his time in the military, Renkowicz was an insurance broker for roughly 15 years. 

"It gives me some relief and some encouragement to know that I have a little talent," Renkowicz said. 

During the pandemic lockdowns, Renkowicz used art to help pass the time. He said that hobby was at the expense of his carpets, which are polka-dotted with paint. 

"I encourage other people to take it up," he said. "They think they can't paint but it's something you can do. We paint with acrylics. And if you make a mistake, just take the white and start over."

This year, both Renkowicz and Choate were selected from artist submissions across the country to be included in the 2022 Expressions Calendar. 

It's an award-winning calendar aimed at celebrating active aging and the arts. Most of the honorees have been painting most of their lives. 

For both Choate and Renkowicz, this gave them all the more pride in the recognition given as they both have only been painting for a few years.