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Ginger painting

Gatesworth Stories —

Virginia “Ginger” Larsen
After 13 years of calling The Gatesworth home, Ginger still enjoys its many opportunities.

Virginia “Ginger” Larsen doesn’t think of herself as an artist. Yet her colorful beaded earrings, distinctive white-framed glasses, and curated collection of paintings on the wall at The Gatesworth tell another story.

Ginger is as adept with a pen as she is a paintbrush. She devotes hours every week to painting and writing—creative pursuits she didn’t begin until she moved to The Gatesworth in 2006.

Ginger’s writing has been inspired by her adventurous life. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Ginger was a self-proclaimed mischievous tomboy. In high school, she starred in plays and played tenor saxophone in a dance band...Ultimately, her life has been a freestyle dance.

Setting Sail for Adventures

She met her husband, Bill, while in college at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.

After marriage, Ginger and Bill settled in Taylorville, Illinois, where Bill was a banker. While raising three daughters her creativity blossomed after she conquered the potter’s wheel. She joined the Springfield Ceramics and Crafts Club where she learned batik, copper enameling, weaving, needlepoint and basket weaving. She started playing duplicate bridge and after attaining Life Master at age 50, she later obtained Ruby Live Master ranking. Being land-locked didn’t stop the couple from becoming expert sailors. The Larsen family earned their sea legs on lakes throughout the Midwest and competed in regattas across the country. They also had a home in Florida where the gulf was their sailing playground. Ginger was jib mate, while her husband was captain of “Grand Larseny”.

In 1996, they moved to Florida full-time where she designed and sold earrings, called “Earresistables” in a boutique where she modeled clothes. At social sing-a-longs, she played the spoons and set sail for even more adventure. “We had a 17-foot Thistle racing sailboat and a 27-foot Hunter Cruising boat we sailed in the Gulf of Mexico,” Ginger says.

Self-Expression Through Pen and Paint

After Ginger’s husband passed away in 2005, Ginger set forth on another adventure: she moved to The Gatesworth to be close to her daughters who lived in St. Louis.

A new passion soon followed. At The Gatesworth, she has hand-woven over 40 purses {aptly named: Pursonally Yours”} on a notched cardboard loom. Another resident at The Gatesworth recognized her writing ability and introduced Ginger to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Washington University.

For the past 12 years, Ginger has taken writing classes at OLLI where she “bares her soul” with fellow classmates. She enthusiastically signs up for sessions throughout the year. So far, she has written more than 300 stories and poems, as well as her memoirs to share with her children and grandchildren.

“I think everyone should write their memoirs for the next generation because the world changes so much,” Ginger says. “Once you start writing, you think about more and more things to write about. Future generations will appreciate it. I also write whatever strikes my fancy. It may be a humorous piece or about an experience I had.”

Her adventurous spirit also led Ginger to take painting classes at The Gatesworth. “I had no art classes in high school or college, but I’ll give anything a try at least once. Painting is peaceful. But I have to be reasonably good or show promise at something to continue with it.”

And she is good at it. Ginger demonstrated talent from the beginning and attends painting class at The Gatesworth twice a week. She prefers acrylics and watercolors and enjoys the serendipity of experimenting. “I’m a trial and error painter,” Ginger says. “Accidents happen in watercolors that turn out beautifully and are impossible to duplicate. And sometimes I use both acrylics and watercolors in the same picture.”

Her work has won awards in the St. Louis Senior Olympics, and Ginger has sold some of her paintings. “When I sell something, it encourages me to try harder,” she says.

While the subjects of her art vary, from animals to buildings, you won’t find many paintings of boats at sea, even though sailing was a significant part of her life. “I don’t need pictures on the wall of boats and water because those images are vivid in my mind—I lived it,” she says. “I cannot put those on paper. I can’t do them justice.”

Ginger says she is equally passionate about writing and painting but for different reasons. “They are closely related because both are methods of self-expression. It is the ultimate desire of an artist to make a profound impact and/or to capture the essence of emotion. That goal is more easily accomplished with written words. I write mainly about experiences I’ve had, but I can’t paint experiences. Memories can’t be accurately captured and depicted in pictures. Memories remain as flickers of the past that even writing can’t do justice to. Writing comes closer to capturing and preserving a memory.”

Exploring Opportunities at Home

When Ginger isn’t painting or writing, she enjoys water exercise at The Gatesworth. She also is refreshing her acting skills. “The choir director here has written some skits,” she explains. “We had to try out for parts. I’m a ham at heart and like to be melodramatic.”

After 13 years of calling The Gatesworth home, Ginger still enjoys its many opportunities. “I love the location,” she says. “It’s close to everything, and I can easily drive my car to my favorite restaurants in the area and visit my family nearby.”

She also appreciates the staff she has gotten to know so well at The Gatesworth. “Everyone is so friendly. I’m amazed that they know everyone by name. It makes you feel part of a family.”

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