A feeling of home

Meet artist Bill Ferguson, who is teaching calligraphy to fellow residents at Uniting AgeWell Hawthorn Community.

They may not know but they’re learning from the best. The contemporary artist’s career reads like a who’s who in the arts world. He was a former senior lecturer and Head of Art at RMIT University in Melbourne and the Art School in Hong Kong and is globally renowned for his work.

He’s travelled the world extensively and exhibited his paintings in the US, Germany, China and France. Over the years he’s sold countless works of art, and also given them to his three children, who each have their own collection. One painting still adorns a wall in Bill’s room.

Bill still vividly recalls the “buzz” of preparing for an exhibition, attending the opening and enjoying the experience of other people appreciating his work.

And he attributes much of his musical ability to his parents – he grew up as an only child with a Dad who loved painting, and a Mum who was an opera singer.

“I guess it’s in the genes,” he admits.

Bill, 92, moved into Hawthorn in 2023 when his wife, Nancy, a retired librarian, needed extra care to cope with Alzheimer’s disease.

“There was never any question that we moved in here together,” explains Bill. “Home for me has always been where Nancy is.”

Bill is grateful for the good meals, activities and round the clock care he and Nancy receive. “It’s like a five star hotel here,” he grins. “What’s not to be happy about?”

It also means that Bill has more time for what he calls the “real passion in my life – music!”

He adores listening to classical music – there are so many opportunities to listen to live-streamed concerts thanks to Uniting AgeWell’s partnership with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Bill, who is living with cancer, says he also enjoys the companionship of other residents at the site. “Alzheimer’s is a very cruel disease,” he says. “It can get a bit lonely when I want to talk about things to Nancy, but she simply does not always have the capacity to fully respond. Chatting to other people here is important, it’s good to have friends.”

Bill, who identifies as Buddhist, says the words of wisdom that have shaped his life belong to Picasso. “It’s not what a person does or how he does it, but what is inside him that counts.”