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Resident artists unveil ceiling tile project at Veterans Home

Ralph Plummer, formerly of Sandwich and now a resident of the New Hampshire Veterans’ Home in Tilton, proudly unveiled his latest painting for the Ceiling Tile Project to benefit bedridden veterans at the health care facility. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
June 13, 2012
TILTON — Earlier this year, three residents of the New Hampshire Veterans' Home took on an artistic initiative for the benefit of their fellow veterans, and things were literally looking up when the Ceiling Tile Project was finally revealed last Wednesday morning.

The focus of the project was to place artwork on the ceilings of a critical care unit to bring enjoyment to veteran residents who are in advanced stages of the aging process. Their health often leaves them bedridden or looking upward from reclining chairs and other types of mobility equipment.

Having seen a similar art display at another health care center, Judy Brown, a Recreation Assistant II for NHVH, broached the Art Committee with the idea of decorating the ceiling tiles at their facility to benefit those residents who are no longer capable of getting out of their beds or moving freely about for social and visual stimulation.

"Their world becomes very, very small at this stage in life," Brown said. "We can't take them out into the world, but we can bring the world here to them. These tiles are their windows to the world now."

Franclyn "Bud" Gavin, David Clark and Ray Plummer were the three veterans who took on the challenge of painting ceiling tiles for residents of Highland Hall.

Bud has been very active in art programs and projects at NHVH, and besides painting seven of the tiles to date, he also has a display of paintings on exhibit outside the Tarr Dining Hall. Gavin began painting in the 1970's, and when approached about the ceiling tiles, was very enthusiastic.

"What a great idea, to give the guys in recliner chairs something to look at," he said.

Among his works are sports themed paintings of logos for the Boston Celtics and the local Tilton School Rams, patriotic works of art, and a beautiful landscape called "America the Beautiful."

"If you look, you can see he included all the parts of the song, from the purple mountains majesty to the fields of amber grain — all of it," said LNA II and Recreation Therapy Assistant Don Giguere, who facilitated the project.

Gavin and Clark were unable to attend the unveiling ceremonies last week, but Plummer was on hand to proudly display his contributions and talk about the project.

"I was born and raised on a farm in Sandwich. We had horses, pigs, and I've done a lot of sapping with my dad and granddad," he said.

Those memories were translated onto his ceiling tiles, which are classic scenes of rural New Hampshire, much like Grandma Moses once depicted in her art.

Plummer said he had dabbled in pencil art in the past, but the Ceiling Tile Project introduced him to painting. He credited Giguere, who is also on the Art Committee, for teaching him to swap his pencil for a paintbrush.

"Don was a really good teacher. He taught me to mix paints and do what I did," Plummer said. "If I made a mistake, I'd look at Don, and he'd say we could fix it."

Giguere said many residents of NHVH have art interests and backgrounds, and his department works to facilitate them in the continuation of what is sometimes a lifelong hobby, or to introduce others, like Plummer, to the world of art. Any supplies the men and women need are made available and their works are often placed on display, whether in their rooms or elsewhere throughout the facility.

Besides his nostalgic ceiling tile painting of the Old Man of the Mountain, poised above a classic New Hampshire covered bridge, the third artist, Clark, has an extensive display of NASA memorabilia in a showcase outside the Tarr Dining Hall for all to enjoy. It includes everything from a replica of a space module he crafted at NHVH to autographs from astronauts and other valued mementoes he has collected over the years.

NHVH is located at 139 Winter St. in Tilton, and is the only state-operated residential care facility for veterans in New Hampshire. Volunteers, whether in groups or as individuals, are always welcome to visit with the men and women of the "Greatest Generation." There, they can hear the many intriguing stories of these noble men and women, learn their roles in U.S. history, or simply see their works of art, nostalgic displays and other collections.

Visitors are also invited to stop in to enjoy programs held at the facility, many of which are open to the public. For more information please visit their Web site at www.nh.gov/veterans or call 527-4400.


Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Parker Village
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
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