40 years of art honored at COM 50 Plus Program

Elaine Helm, 88, with her daughter, Debbie Edwards, center, and granddaughter Lauren Walling, left, displays one of her first pieces, “Mayberry Mill,” as remembered from her travels along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Tennessee.

Traveling, teaching and art have filled Elaine Helm’s life.

Honored as the College of the Mainland 50 Plus Program Winter Artist, Helm, 88 of La Marque, has taken art classes at COM since the 1960s.

“She’s one of our oldest students,” said COM 50 Plus Program Director Alesha Aulds. “She won an award as recently as last year’s summer art show.”
 
Taking oil, acrylic, mosaic, watercolor and drawing classes, Helm’s art is as diverse as her experience.
 
“Elaine has been in my class about five years,” said Andy Karjala, who teaches drawing in the COM 50 Plus Program. “She does art with her heart. She’s dedicated to everything she puts on paper.”
 
Born and raised in Galveston, Helm attended Texas Women’s University in Denton.
 
“That was my first experience out of Galveston,” remembered Helm. “I experienced my first ice storm there. It looked like something from Doctor Zhivago, with ice in the trees.”
 
After graduating in 1950, Helm worked in La Marque ISD, teaching fourth grade at Lamar Elementary School. She lived in the building across the street from the school, then a dormitory for single teachers, in which the COM 50 Plus Program now resides.
 
Majoring in clothing and costume design, she sewed for years afterward. She began taking classes at COM in the 1960s.
 
“My first class was before they built the College of the Mainland (current campus),” said Helm. “We had a good group of people. The friends that I made I still correspond with a lot of them.”
 
Her continuing education art class took trips to Galveston and local highlights. Her painting “Red Chimneys” depicts a yellow frame home with red brick chimneys, ensconced in greenery, she spied on one trip.
 
“It was exactly like that,” said Helm. “I went last fall and they’d painted the chimneys white. That’s what drew me was the yellow house with red chimneys.”
 
“The instructors are very informative and help you a lot,” said Helm.
 
After retiring in 1980 from Lake Road Elementary School, Helm and her husband traveled in their mobile home across the US. The photographs she snapped in her travels became the inspiration for many of her landscape paintings, including one of Mayberry Mill, along Blue Ridge Parkway in Tennessee. Another captures a cactus-dotted Arizona desert.
 
Unwilling to settle, Helm tackles new challenges and is currently completing a pencil drawing of a cat based on a photo clipped from a magazine. She and her classmates encourage each other in their work.
 
“These are the friendliest people to get to work with,” said Helm.
 
Besides art, Helm stays busy with her family – a daughter, two granddaughters and many nieces and nephews – and her Chihuahua she calls Lucy Lady Bug.
 
In this show at 1130 Delmar in La Marque, she has over 40 pieces of her art on display.
 
“Elaine has blossomed for many years.” said Anjala. “You can’t live without wanting to leave something behind, and Elaine has an enormous amount of material that her family will enjoy.”  

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