Wanda Hansler, 94, of Pepper Pike lives life to the fullest. She has taken watercolor classes at the Orange Art Center for decades and has become quite skilled in her work. Mrs. Hansler’s friends helped her set up a silent auction for her art on Sept. 19, which raised more than $600. She chose to donate the funds back to the art center, which has enriched her life over the years.

94-year-old donates show revenue to center

To watercolor artist Wanda Hansler, age is just a number. At age 94, she is full of life, positivity and joy that she finds through family, friends, pets and hobbies. She is a 61-year resident of Pepper Pike along with her 9-year-old husband, Dick. Mrs. Hansler taught English as a second language at the Orange City School District for 13 years. In recent years, she found her passion at the Orange Art Center.

Mrs. Hansler has been taking watercolor classes at the art center for more than 25 years. When her friends Shauna Hajek and Dr. Debra Rozin suggested having an art show to display her work, Mrs. Hansler was hesitant. She is humble and avoids the spotlight. A friend suggested having a silent auction and donating the revenue to the Orange Art Center. With that idea, Mrs. Hansler was on board. She wanted to give back to an organization that has given so much to her.

“I like the atmosphere and there’s a lot of comradery in the classes,” Mrs. Hansler said. “I love the location. It’s an older house that was converted into an art center. It’s in this beautiful woodland setting, so it’s very pleasant and relaxing to go there. I like the people, it’s very informal. I’ve learned a lot and it keeps growing. There are more and more offerings.”

She will donate about $600 in proceeds to the Orange Art Center from her auction on Sept. 19, which was titled “A Watercolor Retrospective with Wanda.” It included about 40 pieces. Mrs. Hansler is not interested in making money from her work, she said. She enjoys painting as a hobby and it allows for fun social events with friends. Mrs. Hansler described watercolor painting as “absorbing and enjoyable.” She enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes with creating a new piece of art.

Ms. Hajek and Dr. Rozin met Mrs. Hansler in the advanced watercolor class at the art center about two years ago. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, a group of friends still wanted to meet and paint together as they were safely able to do so. Mrs. Hansler offered up her home after vaccinations were available, so the group painted together on her back porch.

“We were in and out of the house and noticed how much gorgeous art was on the walls, and it’s all hers,” Dr. Rozin said of Mrs. Hansler’s home. “Shauna and I talked to her and Wanda was like, ‘You have no idea what I have stuffed under beds and in closets.’ So the next time we came over, she pulled it all out. Shauna and I decided we have to have a show. Once we got the idea rolling, we couldn’t be stopped.”

Dr. Rozin, 57, of Orange Village is an internist. She said she sees older patients regularly and described Mrs. Hansler as “one of the sharpest nonagenarians I’ve ever met.” Ms. Hajek, 48, of Pepper Pike said Mrs. Hansler is giving, loving, welcoming and intelligent.

“She’s a remarkable woman,” Ms. Hajek said. “She is our model for what we want to live to be someday.”

Mrs. Hansler has a love of nature and animals, which is reflected in her paintings. When she is out and about, she said she looks at things differently. Mrs. Hansler notices scenes that would make a nice painting. She uses photographs from past trips to paint nature scenes.

Mrs. Hansler also has several pets at her home, including two golden retrievers named Lilly and Baxter, Tuxie the cat, Clover the sheep and Nugget the naughty pygmy goat.

Besides the art show and the pieces hung in her home, Mrs. Hansler shares the paintings with her family and friends. Several of her pieces were shown in the Gates Mills Art Show many years ago, she said. They have also consistently been displayed in the Orange Art Center’s student shows.

Executive Director of the Orange Art Center Debra Lee Meese said that the center appreciates Ms. Hansler’s donation and her participation in their classes. Ms. Meese said other students admire Mrs. Hansler’s work.

“She’s an example of how important it is to keep doing work as you age. She’s such a delight,” Ms. Meese said. “For the art show, she said she’s giving the proceeds to the Orange Art Center. That speaks volumes to who she is and how wonderful she is.”

She said Mrs. Hansler hosts a gathering at her home for her classmates at the end of every session, which creates a sense of community. Ms. Meese said the art center is lucky to have Mrs. Hansler in their classes.

The art center’s first fall session began in late September and will run through October. The second fall session is Nov. 1 through Dec. 17 with various classes Monday through Thursday, including a new class for precious metal clay jewelry and architectural drawing. There are also Saturday classes for children from Oct. 2 through Nov. 20 and “Sunday Funday” workshops through the end of the year.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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