Hidden Gem

(Written by Sarah Hurtig)

“Stage Coach Bridge II”
Watercolor by Thelma Ernst

Before helping out at the Sudbury Historical Society during school break, I’d never heard the name Thelma McAlpine-Ernst before, but it was one of the first I got to know.

The Society is fortunate to have a few watercolor paintings by this local artist in their collection. The texture and color of these works grabbed me immediately; the short, energetic lines creating wispy foliage out of greens and yellows contrast beautifully with the long, blue brush strokes that make up the serene sky and water. The scenes she depicted remind me of a storybook world, full of charm and natural beauty. Though she may not be a household name, Thelma had incredible talent.

“Red Horse Tavern – 1746”
Watercolor by Thelma Ernst

Because I major in art history at UMass Amherst, I was working to create a short biography on Thelma for the Historical Society’s records. Unfortunately, there is still not much known about her and her work. Her sister, Bertha, provided a short biographical statement about Thelma and described her as “a late bloomer.” She received her associate degree from Quinsigamond Community College in 1992 at the age of 73 and continued to take art classes at the Worcester Art Museum afterwards. She had her artwork displayed in places such as the Wayland Public Library and the Fitchburg Art Museum, as well as the homes of her family members. Thelma is a remembered by this town for her joyous interpretations of the world around her and stands as an example that it is never too late to start doing what you love.

Sarah Hurtig is an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a resident of Sudbury.

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