Resident Jo McMurtry’s Art Depicts Vibrant Life at Kendal

“I sketch a lot, whatever happens to be in front of me,” said Jo McMurtry, a 15-year resident of Kendal at Lexington.

Days In the Life

Over those 15 years, Jo has seen a lot in this community of active, engaged residents. Currently, eight of her charcoal sketches depicting various aspects of life at KaLex are on display in the Residents’ Art Gallery dedicated solely to residents’ works of art.

Given such titles as “Audience in Kendal Hall,” “In the Library,” “Alfredo the Robot,” and “South Parking Lot,” to name a few, Jo’s sketches of monotone blacks and grays on warm cream paper capture the people, places, activities, and everyday moments that dot the Kendal landscape. A person ascending a staircase is just as likely to be her subject as a performing cellist.

“I like charcoal a lot, but it has its limitations,” remarked Jo, who opts for pencil, ink or watercolor when she’s on the go because charcoal can break and smudge.

Honing Her Craft

To nurture her lifelong interest in art, Jo took courses at the Studio School of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a “wonderful institution” that she heartily recommends. When she moved to Kendal at Lexington in 2008, she discovered the Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton, VA, 40 miles north of Lexington. “It has become a major part of my life,” said the retired University of Richmond English professor who loves words as much as drawing.

In addition to the Kendal gallery, Jo’s work can be found on display at Earth, Fire and Spirit Gallery in downtown Lexington, where she is a consignor. Her art has also been featured at various art shows in Lexington and surrounding counties over the years.

Kindred Artists

Jo is in good company at Kendal at Lexington, sharing artistic expression with several other talented residents, such as John Winfrey, a “charming gentleman” who, along with his wife Barbara, immediately made her feel welcome when she moved to Kendal. For many years a member of the Nelson Gallery in downtown Lexington and facilitator of various local exhibitions, John has invited Jo to take part in several of them.

“John’s generosity is not limited to his neighbors at Kendal; he encourages everybody,” said Jo.

Camaraderie On Display

The spirit of encouragement and camaraderie is clearly on display in the Residents’ Gallery (run by residents Nancy Ruley and Bill Willey, who “magically bring order out of chaos,” quipped Jo), where there are presently 39 pieces of various art forms created by 17 residents. They include wood carvings, needlepoint, knitted garments, drawings, paintings, photographs, and more.

Every four months or so, the display is changed to feature different resident artwork, whether it’s something that was created years ago or last week, explained Jo. “New residents are especially encouraged to exhibit.”

A World of Opportunities

Kendal’s annual Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair is another opportunity for gifted residents to showcase and sell their work. Jo, who has participated in the fair all three of its years, offers her boxed note cards and framed drawings.  

“This year’s fair (on December 2 and 3, 2022) was a great success in bringing people from the community to Kendal and demonstrating how many interests the residents and staff have,” said Jo, who knew she had found the right place on her very first visit to Kendal.

“There are delightful people here, books everywhere, and all this natural beauty. Living here is a lot of fun.”

cottage art jo
library art jo
performer art Jo
Kendal Hall art Jo
alfredo art Jo