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2021 Christmas card features artwork by McKenna Crossing resident

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:9

We share with you the 2021 Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) Christmas card that is arriving in the mailboxes of over 30,000 residents, employees and volunteers this month. This year’s card features the art of Sharon Cameron, who lives at McKenna Crossing in Prior Lake, MN. On the card’s cover, light radiates from her watercolor painting of the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse, a Lake Superior North Shore landmark. With a nod to the season, she has added a  Christmas tree at the edge of the cliff in front of the lighthouse. Her imagery is reflected in the familiar words from the Gospel of John to create this beautiful card.

Melissa Kirchhoff, McKenna Crossing campus administrator, saw some of Sharon’s paintings and was impressed. “I learned that she had created many Christmas cards for her family over the years,” she said. This summer, Melissa encouraged Sharon to submit an existing or new painting for the Christmas card. “Sharon started dropping off her artwork every day for a week to see if something would work,” Melissa recalled. Among Sharon’s submissions, her Split Rock watercolor was selected.  

A lifelong gift

Sharon can’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating art. She received her first sketch pad as a child and has continued to draw and paint for over 80 years, she says, “because it makes me happy.”

Sharon is grateful for excellent teachers who guided her talents. Her parents enrolled her in classes at the Walker Art Museum. She served as art editor for her high school newspaper, publishing several of her pen and ink illustrations.

Across her lifetime, Sharon has been fortunate to study with many artists, including Minnesota artists Kay Sharkey and Cheng-Kee Chee.

“Art teaches you to look and learn. My motto is never stop learning,” she explained. “[To be] creative is to make something that wasn’t there before. It’s a vacation of the imagination.”

Inspired by nature and a favorite place

Her artwork is inspired by the immersive experience of nature. She loves Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore. Since she was a child, her family frequently vacationed on the North Shore. “We would stay in a little cabin near Grand Marais,” she recalled.  After she married Don, her “high school sweetheart,” they returned to stay in the same cabin for many more summers.

One of her favorite North Shore sites is Split Rock Lighthouse, located east of Two Harbors, MN. For half a century, the lighthouse guided ships safely across the stormy waters of the deepest and largest Great Lake.

The lighthouse, one of over 56 that ring Lake Superior, was decommissioned in 1969 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2011. Noting that many ships and crews were lost prior to Lake Superior’s lighthouses, Sharon hopes her painting will inspire others to know that “God’s lights shine to save ships and crews, and you.”

Art given as love

Sharon loves two things – her family and art. A lifelong Minnesotan, Sharon, with her husband Don, raised three children in Minneapolis. Don encouraged her to continue her passion and much of her work is created of and for her family. This past year she was recognized by Global Music Awards for an album cover she drew for the blues album "Back from the Edge," recorded by her son's ensemble, the Mark Cameron Band. “It’s nice to have your kids proud of you!” she said.  

Finding home at McKenna Crossing

Sharon became acquainted with McKenna Crossing when Don was a resident in The Arbor for a brief period. They chose McKenna Crossing for him because, “Everyone here was happy!” she said.  After Don passed away in 2015, Sharon began making her own plans to live at McKenna Crossing. “I was #25 on the waiting list,” she said. When an independent senior apartment became available to her in snowy December 2019, she was asked if she wanted to wait to move. She said, “No, it’s mine!”

Shortly after she arrived, she spoke about art to the women’s group at McKenna Crossing.  Some attending asked her to coordinate a sketching group; but when the pandemic emerged, the idea was put on hold. “I hope we can get back to that point,” she says. “I like being alone to paint, but I like to be with people too.”  

“We feel honored that Sharon is able to share her talent,” says Melissa. “Residents are excited and proud for her!” Melissa says that as Sharon has learned how others value her talent and creative energy, she is finding purpose and feels part of a community. Even so, Melissa acknowledged, “She is so humbled that her artwork was selected.”  

A PHS Christmas tradition

Since 2010, an original work of art by a PHS resident has appeared on the annual Christmas card. We are blessed to add Sharon’s beautiful and inspiring work to this tradition.

May you be blessed as well. Merry Christmas.

Meet PHS Christmas card artists of years past:

2020: Linda King, Dickson Hollow
2019: Sister Ansgar Holmberg, Carondelet Village
2018: Marge Lyons, Waverly Gardens

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