Altered Minds gives like-minded artists an opportunity to create



For members of the Altered Minds mixed media art group, a monthly gathering with those who share a flair for coloring outside the lines is fuel for creation.

"They are all nuts," fabric artist Edda Juhl, 75, said with a chuckle as she waited her turn at the craft of making marble-painted paper. "They all have a different outlook on life, and they are not afraid to try new things."

"They" are painters, jewelers, sculptors, fractured artists, fabric artists and upcyclers with a knack for exploration.

"Any discipline you can think of, we have someone who is doing it," said Carol Wutzl, 73, an upcycler who can turn most anything designated for the trash — lamps, window frames, buttons, baseballs — into works of art.

Gatherings are held once a month, usually at the New Port Richey Library, unless the project is likely to be messy. Then members open up their homes for a morning lesson, show-and-tell, and lunch, of course.

"You get to try something you wouldn't ordinarily do — play in some other medium," said facilitator Ellen DeIntinis, 64, one of a handful of artists who 10 years ago formed the original group, then known as the Pasco Service Design Group.

"It's a wonderful bunch of ladies, and we all have a grand time," said Lauren Carr, 66, who owns Gateway Gallery and Emporium in downtown New Port Richey and makes whimsical sculptures out of palm tree boots and other yard waste. "It's craziness, but fun craziness."

Two years ago, Palma "Peachie" Lawrence, 67, answered an invitation to teach a lesson on chalk painting on furniture, and ended up joining.

"I love this group because we do different stuff all the time, and we can apply it to whatever we are working on," Lawrence said.

Each month, one member steps up to share and teach an art project, whether it be a medium they work with regularly or something they decided to try on a whim.

July's happy gathering had Margaret McLoy, 59, teaching 10 members how to make marbled paper in an aluminum tray on a pool table turned craft table in Carr's New Port Richey home while her two dogs, Woodrow and Gandolf, nosed about.

"I like the people a lot. I find it's motivating to try new things and get the feedback," said McLoy, who works in ceramics, quilting and jewelrymaking.

Camaraderie is an essential glue for the group, which sprang from a local quilting group that some, like Betty Mitchell, found too confining. She preferred more abstract creations to making perfect corners for her quilts.

"If you don't come and keep contact with other artists, you find yourself not doing it," said Mitchell, 91. "There's so many different things going on here."

"It's mostly become a circle of friends," said mixed media artist Trish Farmlett. "We've had as many as 25 (members). People drop out and drop in."

The diversity, generosity of the artists and the need to keep various techniques alive is what appeals to Karen Jaenichen, 72, a fractured artist who teaches children's classes at the Gateway Gallery and Emporium.

"We need to pass on the information, what you've learned, because we're not going to be here forever," Jaenichen said.

Being on the receiving end of that information is a boon, said Ronnie Dewa, 45, an artist who traditionally works in felt, fiber art, leather, glasswork and metal.

"The women are all down-to-earth and fun to be with," Dewa said. "It's always fun to come here. It's like therapy."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.