Laughter and chatter filled a small room in the Harker Heights Recreation Center as a dozen seniors gathered for the Wednesday morning art class.

Every participant had a workspace consisting of paints, brushes, sketchbooks and canvases, but each stood up at least once during the two-hour class to view and praise each other’s work.

Teacher Joe Friddle said this mutual support is the strength of the class, and the reason why many students attend for years.

Friddle is a former teacher with the Killeen Independent School District who has “taught just about everything,” including art at Killeen and Ellison high schools. He retired in 2002 after 32 years, and now teaches recreational art classes for seniors and children.

The seniors class has met since 2005. Friddle and participants said the class has no beginning or end, and people can come back as long as they like. Sometimes, Friddle teaches the whole class a technique or gives them a project. But most of the time, students paint personal projects.

The camaraderie and relaxation of the class appeal to students, they said.

Friddle encourages the students to experiment with their art as much or as little as they like.

“Do whatever makes you happy,” he said. “This is your art.”

Mary Odom has attended the class for a year.

“We walked in as beginners,” she said. “I don’t know if we’re getting any better, but we keep doing it because it’s fun to do.”

Friddle teaches the class from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays at the Recreation Center, 305 Miller’s Crossing.

Herald/Rachel Kaser

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