After Caroll’s husband retired from the military, he and Caroll decided to “give it a go” in Newberry, where he grew up. But things felt “a bit lonely” for Caroll.
“With the military, you always had a base of people who were associated with you, and there was never an issue of being without friends,” Caroll said. When she and her husband came to the smaller community of Newberry, Caroll realized, “At our age people have had their routines and friends for years, and you can’t expect to be a part of their bridge or book clubs right away.”
Caroll was searching for “something else that would make me happy and not dependent on others to include me, a creative outlet.” Caroll was an art major in college at first, but later pursued a teaching degree. Traveling, moving, and raising a family made it hard to keep up her art. She found a class at the Newberry Arts Center, but she had never painted watercolor and was a little nervous. “I took a chance and signed up.”
“I believe it changed my whole life here,” Caroll reflected. “The very first day, I knew that I had made the right choice. There was no worry, I didn’t feel intimidated, I didn’t have to compete.” In the class, Caroll was with a group of people practicing a skill together in a safe, relaxed, and welcoming atmosphere. “We aren’t under pressure to reach a goal someone else set for us. Our goal is to get better at watercolor and make it easy for other people to do the same thing.”
The friendship continued outside the Arts Center: going to lunch after class, gathering at a classmate’s house to paint together, taking a trip to the zoo. Classmates bring experiences from living in other states like she has, and some drive from as far as Saluda, Greenwood, and Cheraw each week. Classmates take interest in each other’s lives. Through the class, Caroll gained individual growth but also companionship.
Caroll has taken watercolor classes for six years. Now Caroll welcomes newcomers to the class, and like her “they have belonged since the first day they came.” Through CREATE Newberry, the Newberry Arts Center continues to offer programs to help individuals – both new to art and new to Newberry – find a place they belong.