‘It’s natural for me’: 99-year-old Ukiah artist continues tradition of teaching others

Adele Pruitt, the owner of Pruitt’s Fine Art Restoration in Ukiah, has taught art classes in the area for the better part of the past 50 years.|

Among Adele Pruitt’s most prevalent childhood memories is the image of her grandmother swabbing oil paint onto black and white photographs, infusing the image with color.

Pruitt, who grew up in Oakland but now lives in Ukiah, said much of her life has revolved around art.

Her mother and her paternal grandmother met each other while they studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. And, her father worked as an architect while her mother would go on to work as an illustrator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in San Francisco, Pruitt said.

“I was surrounded by it,” she added. “(My parents) just gave us art materials and let us do what we wanted.”

Now, at 99 years old, Pruitt’s world continues to be consumed by art. She operates Pruitt’s Fine Art Restoration, a business she opened north of Ukiah roughly 20 years ago.

Before that, Pruitt ran Renaissance Gallery for 32 years, where she first started offering art restoration services in the 1970s after being certified at the Academy of Professional Art Conservation and Science in Sonoma.

All the while, she’s taught art classes to people in the Ukiah area as a means to pay for the cost of running her businesses, Pruitt said.

Before moving to Ukiah, she worked as a public school and adult education teacher for several years in various Northern California counties.

“Everybody else thinks it's a miracle (that I’m still teaching) but I just do it because it’s natural for me,” Pruitt said.

Framed and unframed paintings line the walls of Pruitt’s Ukiah studio, where she teaches classes in eight-week blocks to a core group of mostly veteran students. in recent years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group has dwindled to a handful of pupils, she said.

The topics she’s covered in the courses range from color theory and landscapes to egg tempera. She describes that last one as a technique that melds color pigments with egg yolk to create a fast-drying paint.

The most common medium she teaches is oil paint, Pruitt said.

Among Pruitt’s students is Jeanette Bylund, 93, of Redwood Valley. Bylund said she began taking classes with Pruitt in 2013, about the same time she moved back to Mendocino County after 40 years away.

She continues to enroll in the courses because they keep her active and she enjoys the company of Pruitt and the others who attend the class. The group goes out to lunch on Wednesdays after a few hours of painting at Pruitt’s studio, Bylund said.

She also appreciates the humor Pruitt brings to her courses ― she often tells stories about her life in Ukiah. Bylund added that she appreciates the honest, but gentle feedback Pruitt offers to her students.

“She’s not critical but she points out what needs to be done, what should be done,” Bylund said. “She leaves it to us to decide if we want to do it or not, so it’s very congenial.”

Though Pruitt still enjoys teaching the classes and making art, she said she’s ready to retire and is actively looking for someone to buy her business. So far, she’s had little luck in that endeavor, however.

“You don’t do something all your life if you don’t like it,” Pruitt said. “But I would love somebody that would like to take over the business and continue it. I could help.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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