Ulrey, 98, still loves to paint

Submits paintings for Parkersburg Art Center show

Photos provided Betty Ulrey in her studio at her home in Glen Mills, Pa., with some of her artwork in the background. At age 98, she still paints actively.

GLEN MILLS, Pa. — At the age of 98, Betty Ulrey remains an active painter.

“She lives to paint,” Ulrey’s son Steve said of his mother. “I do believe that her long life is related to being able to continue doing something she truly loves,” Steve said.

Betty Ulrey, one of the founding members of the Parkersburg Art Center, painted six watercolor landscapes for the art center’s “PAC 6×6: The Next Small Thing in Art” exhibit and sale on Sunday and mailed them to Parkersburg.

Ulrey lived and painted in Parkersburg from 1953-1965 and again from 1969-73, while her late husband, Scott, worked at DuPont’s Washington Works as a chemical engineer.

She now lives in Glen Mills, Pa.

Most of Ulrey’s artwork is posted on her website, www.bettyulrey.com. Included are photographs of Ulrey’s solo art show in Wilmington, Del., on her 90th birthday. When Ulrey arrived in Parkersburg in the 1950s, she didn’t know anyone in town.

“I had been very active in our group of painters in Texas and hoped to find a group in Parkersburg,” according to a letter Ulrey wrote to the Parkersburg Art Center accompanying her artwork.

Ulrey said she found a few artists in Parkersburg and invited them to her home to talk about art.

“We found an abandoned grocery store on Ramsey Street and six or seven of us agreed to rent it. The West Virginia Paint store on Market Street donated paint to us. We cleaned up the old store, painted the shelves, and painted together there for quite a while. We each had a key,” Ulrey wrote.

Ulrey said a bar was next door to the group’s early art center in Parkersburg. The artists could use the bar’s telephone if necessary, she said.

“We laughed about it, but we were very cautious. The bar patrons probably laughed, too,” Ulrey said.

“As the group grew, we helped each other as we had no teacher. We often brought our lunch. I even brought my baby, and they said this child will certainly become a painter. He has not, but he is creative,” Ulrey wrote in her letter to the art center.

“We were a little crowded in the old grocery. An opportunity came to rent an old Baptist church on Dudley Avenue,” she said.

“No task was below anyone, and we all worked very hard to make the modest building into our art center. We had such a great time! We were quite successful having art shows and also a place to paint. We even put on a nice dinner for about 150 people, served from our kitchen, and with a speaker,” Ulrey wrote.

“I am so delighted to have heard of the wonderful creativity, progress, and status of the PAL (Parkersburg Art League, now Parkersburg Art Center). You have become a real fixture in Parkersburg life. The old PAL has many happy memories for me. All the old members would stand up and cheer,” Ulrey wrote.

Ulrey said she started drawing at 3 years old. She watched her grandfather draw pictures.

Ulrey likes to paint with oils, because they are flexible and strong, she said.

“I love color in my paintings,” Ulrey said.

Ulrey grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in art and design in 1942.

“I enjoyed living in Parkersburg,” Ulrey said, noting it was a safe, good place for children to grow up and had nice people.

And she said she wanted to help the Parkersburg Art Center by providing her artwork for the “6 x 6” exhibit.