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Art of Dominican Sister of Hope and Her Students Take Center Stage

FALL RIVER, MA --July 31, 2009 -- For many years Sister Gertrude Gaudette, OP, a Dominican Sister of Hope, has been well-known and recognized for her contribution to the arts.

Since 1983, after several years of teaching art in high schools, she opened the Creativity Center at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters in Fall River, Massachusetts. When the convent closed in 2002, her Creativity Center moved with her to The Landmark Senior Living Community of Fall River. While many of her students followed her, she also picked up new students from among the residents.

For the past two years, The Landmark has provided an opportunity for Sister Gertrude’s students to display their works of art. Close to 100 works of art, including oil and watercolor paintings, as well as wood carvings, created by 39 students, were on display at the most recent show held in June.

Her own works were featured recently at the 90th anniversary celebration of the League of Franco-Americans, based in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Sister Gert, as she is fondly called, is well-known for her wood carvings, among them the coat of arms for five diocesan bishops and the centennial logo for the Diocese of Fall River. She has won numerous awards for her carvings, including “Best of Show.” She has also been featured in the newsletter of the New England Woodcarvers, Spirit of Wood, which referred to her as one of the groups “finest members.”

In a past issue of Windows on Hope, the news magazine of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, that focused on the “Artist as Preacher,” Sister Gert explains her passion for woodcarving thus: “God gave me talents, and I feel His pleasure when I use them and share them with my students. My reverence for wood dates back to the Great Depression, when the family was forced to move to the country, where we were surrounded by beautiful, tall pine trees. My long affection and friendship with trees is one of my finest experiences. Carvers and sculptors enjoy giving the tree a new lease on life. It’s a wonderful feeling to give new life to a block of wood. I think my students feel it, too, as they chip away and enjoy the grain, texture, and strength, and discover that, as William Penn said, “wood is a substance with a soul.”

During her 64 years as a Dominican, this “Jill of many trades,” has painted, renovated, and divided or built rooms in the convent and school, and remodeled the altar and sanctuary of the motherhouse chapel twice.

From 1981 to 2007, she spent her summers designing and painting inspirational displays for the Christmas Festival of Lights at The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Also a photographer, she once had her own dark room and led a high school camera club for her own alma mater, Dominican Academy. She continues to attend wood-carving classes, takes violin lessons, and never stops sharing what she has learned!

Donna Brunell, OP
Communications Director
Dominican Sisters of Hope
July 30, 2009

“wood is a substance with a soul.”