The art teacher moves from table to table spreading words of encouragement to her full class of students. Part cheerleader, part motivator.
“Gladys, you did fabulous! Don’t erase anything.”
“Oh, Frank, look at you! Looks just like the picture.”
There are two different pictures that Margo Hirsh created for the class to use as models. The assignment was to choose a picture and try to replicate it.
Many of these students are no different than Margo. They’re all residents at The Chelsea at Forsgate, a leading Assisted Living and Memory Care community in Monroe Township, NJ.
“What they’re learning now is success,” she said. “They must learn success first. Nothing is bad. Nothing is wrong. It’s all good.”
Like her students, Hirsh gave art a try later in life.
A Second Career
Margo and her husband, Mike, owned and managed an electronics repair store called Merle Radio in Plainfield.
When they retired after 25 years, Margo started taking night classes in art at East Brunswick High School and fell in love with it. She said she would get there “an hour early if necessary” to make sure she had a front row seat.
She said she had “the best teacher in the entire world” and would follow him around to shows and other classes he was teaching to make sure she was soaking up all the knowledge and tricks that she could.
It paid off. The quality of her work was being recognized by fellow students, one of whom asked if Margo would give her lessons.
Word spread and soon enough Margo was privately teaching 40 people – only one-on-one – out of her home, six days a week.
She said she never dreamed of this. She didn’t paint or draw growing up in Jersey City, NJ. Instead, she met the love of her life, got married young, and started a family.
The Traveling Artist and Her Handy Husband
Mike converted one of the rooms in their house in East Brunswick into an art studio. Margo said he would make her meals and manage all the household responsibilities while she worked on art projects all day.
“I would go up there and get lost,” she said.
She had been producing so many pieces of art that the space in the studio became scarce.
They decided to commit their weekends to selling Margo’s work at art shows all around New Jersey.
“We always sold,” she said. “We never went away without selling.”
Mike was a big part of that. He matted and framed all of her work. He customized their car to make room for transporting the work.
Margo’s work has been recognized as Best in Show on several occasions and once was featured at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ.
Sharing her Talent in a New Home
Margo’s drawings and paintings are spread all over the activities room at The Chelsea at Forsgate.
“I am so happy when I come in here,” she said.
There’s now a display outside of the room featuring the work of her students. And on a separate table, there’s more of Margo’s work. She’s been selling it to residents and visitors of the community.
“One lady bought two,” Margo said. “She said put a sold sign on it. I don’t want anybody taking it.”
Margo laughs recalling the story, in part out of disbelief because she’s surprised that so many people in the community have shown interest.
But her talent is clear. And that’s why she was asked to teach the class.
“My heart sings,” she said. “I love it. I can’t begin to tell you how good it makes me feel. Every week I have to think of a different picture for them to do. I think of it and then I draw it. I show it to them to give them an example of what it’s going to look like and then I tell them not to copy it.”
She believes all art has its own interpretation, and therefore there is no wrong way to create something.
That is what she calls success and is happy to share it in her new home with students who are also her friends.