By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury/Cambridge – Former Shrewsbury resident Deb Peeples, 63, recently returned from a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center, one of 48 visual artists and writers who took part in the program. After raising a family, taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s and devoting much of her life to community service, the time had come a few years ago for her to fulfill her lifelong passion for art. She is now laser focused.
When asked about the residency, she replied, “That was a fantastic experience… It was a very exciting exchange… It was a gift of time.”
Instead of retiring to a warmer climate, Peeples and her husband of 36 years, Ron, chose to relocate to Cambridge to enjoy an urban lifestyle with access to artistic opportunities. They have been in Cambridge for almost five years.
While growing up outside of New York City, Peeples took many art classes and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where she and Ron met.
“When I got out of school I was painting and living in Minneapolis where a gallery represented me. I certainly couldn’t support myself doing artwork and being a starving artist was not my thing,” she explained.
She moved back to New York City, held professional managerial positons, married and had three children.
After stints in New Jersey, Chicago and Switzerland, the family settled in Shrewsbury in 1993.
They chose Shrewsbury because of the schools and she served for many years on the School Committee.
Peeples was also a Town Meeting member and held leadership and advocacy roles in other organizations and political campaigns.
It was when her middle child came out as transgender that their world shifted closer to Boston as she became very involved with LGBT causes.
“The work that I was doing was statewide and mostly based in Boston. I was helping facilitate support groups for parents of transgendered kids,” Peeples shared.
However, she had never abandoned her love for the arts and it was reignited once her kids were grown.
“We started looking for loft spaces and when we found this space in Cambridge it was like a dream,” she said.
She and her husband set to work converting what was once an artist’s studio. It was the perfect spot for them to build their new home which is sleek, sophisticated and breathtaking. They even carved out space for a studio.
Peeples has utilized her time well. She has been actively honing her skills, focusing her talents primarily on encaustic painting (pigmented heated beeswax) and assemblage (similar to collage but consisting of three-dimensional elements). She has also become involved with the Cambridge Art Association as a board member.
”I took an adult education class to learn encaustic paint thinking I would use it in collage but I completely fell in love with it as paint. I just loved painting with it,” Peeples said.
She has shown her work in galleries on Cape Cod, New York City and as far away as California. Currently, she is showing her assemblage “Not 4gotten,” in a juried exhibit that will run from Feb. 20 – March 20 at Concord Art, 37 Lexington Road, Concord.
“I’ve met a wonderful community of people,” she said. “I’m learning new things all the time; it’s exciting and I feel energized by the experience.”