Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Resident Mark Pettengill is one of 13 recent statewide winners of the 2019 “Art from the Heart” contest for his painting of an iconic Cooperstown landmark.
The “Art from the Heart” contest is organized by the Foundation for Quality Care and the New York State Health Facilities Association/New York State Center for Assisted Living. The contest measures artistic capabilities of residents at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers across the state.
Pettengill’s acrylic painting of the Kingfisher Tower, which sits on the edge of Otsego Lake, earned him the award. However, Pettengill said, he also likes to bring attention to lesser-known Cooperstown fixtures, such as the covered bridge at Glimmerglass State Park, through his art.
“Just the little things around town that people don’t know of,” Pettengill said. “The little out of the way things that people wouldn’t know are there, that might make them stop and go look.”
Pettengill, an Army veteran, said receiving the award gave him similar feelings to when he got a commendation from the Army for his drill sergeant work.
“It’s nice to be recognized once in a while,” he said.
Pettengill said he is originally from New Hampshire and moved to Sharon Springs 12 years ago to be near his daughter. He said diving into research about his painting subjects by talking to locals has helped him learn about the area. Neighbors have gotten to know him well since he’s been at Cooperstown Center because he’s often out and about, he said.
Pettengill said he remembers nothing about his arrival at the center four years ago. He said he fell into a coma in February 2015 and regained consciousness at the center in October.
“I wasn’t expected to live more than two weeks,” Pettengill said. “Eight or nine months I was in Never-Never Land, I call it. Bits and pieces I remember, and that’s it. A lot of hallucinations and bits and pieces of reality.”
A few months after emerging from the coma, Pettengill said he decided to attend an art class offered by the center. He said he’d always been interested in art, but had never done it before.
“I got curious about the class so I came, and everyone got a kick out of it because I was the only guy,” Pettengill said.
Now, Pettengill said, residents often ask him for advice on their artwork and compliment his work, including center resident Helen Southworth, who said she started attending the art class a few months ago.
“I think he’s terrific,” she said. “He makes his own Christmas cards and sells them and always does a terrific job.”
Along with the Christmas cards, which he said he will make to order and sell in November in the center’s lobby, Pettengill said he wants to make postcards of his artwork so people can get to know Cooperstown in a unique way.
Pettengill is the center’s resident council president and advocating for his fellow residents is something he said he takes very seriously.
“We try to speak for the people that cant speak for themselves,” he said. “Making sure that everyone’s getting what they need and what they want and what they’re supposed to have.”
He said the role is sometimes taxing, but creating art is a therapeutic outlet.
“I really take it to heart, sometimes too much,” Pettengill said. “That helps me unwind and relax, and hopefully some of that goes into the painting.”
Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221.