2016 - Senior Adult Exhibit

2016 - Senior Adult Exhibit

The talents of Katie Collins, 104, shine in JCC art show

Katie Collins, Portrait"These are some pretty little bones. Now what am I going to do with them?" This was the first thought that Hebrew Home resident Katie Jones Collins says ran through her mind when she began to inspect a pile of dry chicken bones, the remnants of a delicious feast. What Collins did next is fascinating: she painted all the pieces black and then meticulously organized and mounted them onto a canvas into the shape of what she ultimately titled "Tree of Life" — the photo at left shows the final work displayed on the wall of her comfortable room at the Home along with other highly original compositions. She justifiably won 2nd prize for this striking piece in a local exhibition.

Collins, at 104 years of age, is delightfully warm, charming, and more than happy to discuss her life and creative interests. She is one of 30 residents on the campus of Charles E. Smith Life Communities whose artwork has been selected for the upcoming annual senior adult art exhibit at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington: Life of Perspective. The show, proudly celebrating its 18th season according to Program Coordinator Kandy Hutman, opens May 15 and runs through June 5, 2016. This year, says Hutman, Collins will be their eldest participant, followed by Revitz House resident Edith Bloom, also a centenarian, who held that distinction at last year's show.

Born in 1912 in Claiborne County, Mississippi, Collins raised a strong, loving family with her husband Joseph Daniel Collins, "J.D.," owner of a shoe repair shop; she herself enjoyed a 20-year career as a middle school teacher, until her own children earned their college degrees. Notably, Katie and J.D. were among the first African Americans in their county to become registered voters and, as activists in the civil rights movement, they had the unique honor of welcoming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, and two prominent supporters as overnight guests in their Greenwood, Mississippi, home. This was the summer of 1966, and one consequence of that visit, according to a family account, was that "Katie and J.D. were harassed and received threatening phone calls for months. But that did not deter them, as this was not the first timeKatie Collins, Joe Collins that they had been threatened. Fortunately, they were not harmed." 

Katie Collins is the proud mother of three: Loretta Collins Argrett, a distinguished lawyer and former Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division, in the Justice Department (she was the first African American woman to serve in that position); Joseph Collins, retired vice president of Information Technology at Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Yvonne Young, an architect and model. Katie is equally proud of her six grandchildren...and 12 great grandchildren.

On a final note, along with her many artistic talents, Katie is an accomplished poet. Enjoy one of her most moving poems, I am Black, that she and her son Joe, photographed with his mother, have shared with us.


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