Arizona artist Pat Stacy is one of millions of retired Americans pursuing encore careers that allow them to remain vital and actively engaged with the world around them.
Pat Stacy, 73, could not imagine the traditional notion of retirement. “I could not imagine a world without having something to do,” she said.
But what? The former schoolteacher and professional counselor who had retired in 1994 did not want to go back to counseling. Nor did she want to go into private practice. “I didn’t want to be a greeter at Wal-Mart,” she told Millionaire Corner.
In 2008, diagnosed with cancer, she tried painting as an outlet after undergoing a double mastectomy. “I never picked up a brush in my life,” she laughs. “I took a parks and recreation art class and had about eight lessons. During that year, I discovered that when I painted, I didn’t hurt. That’s a principle of pain management—distraction—and it worked.”
The former teacher became a rapt pupil. She bought a book about acrylic painting. “That year I did between 85 and 90 small acrylics,” she said. She wound up studying with the author of that book. Soon after, the native Arizonian and Scottsdale resident entered her first art expo and then the Thunderbird Artists Festival, a celebrated fine arts showcase for artists from all over the world. She will be a featured artist at this year's festival in October.
Today, Stacy is a proud cancer survivor. Her work can be seen in several Arizona galleries, including the Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Artists of the Rim Gallery in Payson, and the Sedona Arts Center Gallery. In January she will be participating in the Arizona Fine Art Expo. Her work is also available online at www.patstacy.com.
Stacy, married, with three children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren, is just one of an estimated 10 million Americans who are redefining retirement by embarking on “encore careers.” Living longer and healthier lives, these retirees aren’t content to spend their senior years checking off items on a bucket list. They are looking to remain vital and actively engaged by seeking out meaningful endeavors.
Painting resonated with Stacy. “It’s so much fun to play in the color and so much fun to experiment,” she said. “There is never a dull moment.” Her abstract works include symbols that express her gratitude “for the universal expression of creativity,” she wrote on her website.
“Somewhere in each painting I put a symbol of the light of the Creator, an acknowledgement that (these paintings) are coming from beyond myself, that it isn’t just me that is working on that canvas. That’s my way of saying thank you.”
Stacy’s paintings are not quite yet generating a profit. There have been art shows, she said, where she has had to pay a $520 booth fee and ended up selling only one piece. But her gallery sales are encouraging, she said. She recently sold her first large-scale piece, a 4 feet by 5-feet painting. She networks with other artists and picks the brains of gallery owners. “Anyplace I can get information, any way I can make my work more meaningful, (I will be listening),” she said. “I have a learning curve that is absolutely straight up.”
What would Stacy say to other individuals who approach retirement with an unscratched creative itch? “Go for it,” she said. “Absolutely, go for it. “I could not imagine sitting in my rocking chair and going to lunch with the ladies being my whole life. The world is so big, there are so many things to do.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.