Left: Students in the ArtReach program at the Juvenile Justice Center
discuss their artwork while teacher
Katy Presswood celebrates their success. Above: Ruth Jackson congratulates a Hendrick Wisteria Place resident on her recent achievements.
In Abilene, Texas, retired art
educators Ruth Jackson and
Carolyn (Katy) Presswood have
done anything but slow their
pace since leaving the classroom.
Opportunities for community
service abound in this small city,
and thankfully, Ruth and Katy are
available to take up some of the
slack. Their activities focus on
meeting the needs of people of all
ages and limitations. Both have
great energy, creativity, and love for
almost every level
including art education for elementary teachers at
Christian University, Ruth specializes now in sharing art activities
with the elderly and the mentally
challenged. Residents from Disability Resources, Inc., and local nursing centers know her well for her
patient, kindly instruction.
Recently widowed, Ruth shares
her home with her grandson, Nate,
and keeps up with a host of friends,
many of whom are artists. She volunteers through the Retired Senior
Volunteer Program and her church,
keeps a studio at home and at the
Center for Contemporary Arts, and
she plays tennis. Ruth is seventy-one years old.
After forty years teaching art
for the Abilene Independent School
District, you’d think Katy would be
ready to take a break. Hardly. She
volunteers with Meals on Wheels
with warm food
to seniors. Like
Ruth, Katy has
a busy social and family life, caring for husband Lloyd and daughter
Sara, who is also an art teacher.
The mother-daughter duo sometimes work together on special art
projects. This spring they’ll work
side-by-side sharing art lessons for
a one-day program at a local private
school. Last year they helped assem-
When you begin thinking
about retirement, consider
checking in with a local
museum or gallery.
ble a canned food sculpture project
at the local mall. She and a former
teaching partner, Carol Mitchell,
now deliver classes to incarcerated
youth through the Center for Contemporary Arts’ ArtReach program.
Ted Dawson, deputy chief for
the Taylor County Juvenile Justice
Center’s post-adjudication facility,
reports that because of the program,
students have found new ways to
express their feelings and new skills
with which to build confidence.
Students in this art program proudly
displayed their work for their peers
and staff during a recent exhibition
Teachers like Ruth and Katy
are needed in communities across
America. Used to multitasking,
organizing, and clearly communicating with people having a wide
range of personality and intelligence, art teachers have skills which
are in great demand.
When you begin thinking about
retirement, consider checking in
with a local museum or gallery.
There’s a good chance they have
an outreach program with needy
youngsters in after-school programs, seniors in need of weekly
art therapy, physically or mentally
challenged adults in day care programs, or troubled youth looking for
a creative outlet. Small stipends and
big smiles will fill your retirement
years with great joy.
Marianne Wood is museum director at the
National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas. mariannewood@suddenlink.