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Two talented women destined to cross paths

One may call it fate or destiny, but the similarity between two women, Olga Farneth and Velia Jacobo, have strengthened a friendship and helped each other in their paths to recovery.


After 12 years of recovering from a debilitating accident, Artist Olga Farneth is back doing what she loves- painting. She works primarily in oils; her work in acrylics is usually reserved for crafts.

Olga Farneth was born and raised in China; her parents were immigrants from Russia. Olga said she was always interested in art ever since she could remember. When kids wrote in her school memory books, they always addressed their notes; “to the future artist.”

Growing up in China, she was always good at art in school, always drawing and doodling. “I like to create things,” Olga says. Everything she does, she creates her own compositions. Throughout her life, she created gardens, fountains, ponds and more. She always designed dresses and clothes for herself and her children.
Even when cooking, presentation was everything. Olga would often incorporate foods, more for color than for taste.

Olga started painting after her youngest child entered school in the late 1960s.  She started slowly, painting only a few paintings at a time. Her only formal art training was a class in the basics of the color wheel. After attending an art show as a spectator, she inquired how she could display her own work. After that, she began attending more and more shows, gaining wide recognition along the way.

Olga has been an invited artist at many famous shows throughout Florida, in shows like The Gasperila show in Tampa, FL, Cocoanut Grove, Vizcaya, Miracle Mile and Key Biscayne in Miami.

When Olga did not show up at Boca Raton, FL one year, the Mayor wrote her a letter asking her why she had not returned and extended an open invitation for the upcoming show, reserving a space for her.

In the 1970s, Olga began attending a few shows each summer in the Washington, DC, Virginia and Delaware area. She stayed in Monroe Bay Campground to be centrally located during her summer showings.

Eventually, she was coming to Colonial Beach before the campground opened and would leave long after it was closed for the winter. This lead to her purchasing a home in Colonial Beach in 1981.

Olga went on to open a gallery Colonial Beach in 1991, long before it was “posh”. Her art and framing business grew over the next ten years. Olga had help from her (now late) husband, Ron, who had been framing her work along her career. The business ran well, but Olga’s continued attendance to art shows kept the family afloat.

Olga was a regular in Virginia Beach at both the 5-day Boardwalk Art Show and the Neptune Festival in the fall, as well as other outdoor and mall shows around the Southern VA area. Olga has attended many regular shows throughout her career from FL to NY and displayed in many galleries throughout. Galleries often visited her shop in Colonial Beach to purchase her work outright.

She has kept signature books throughout her career, asking buyers to sign the books when they made purchases. She has over 600 pages of signatures from people from all walks of life and from almost every country in the world.

In 2001, she was the victim of a hit and run accident that nearly took her life. After being in a coma for two weeks and a total of two and half months in the hospital, Olga had to come home and learn how to walk again.

After nearly 12 years and a lot of self-therapy, Olga has begun painting professionally again. Her work is currently on display at the Riverview Hotel on the corner of North Irving Ave. and Hawthorne Street.

Olga’s host, Velia Jacobo, is an up and coming talented artist who came to Colonial Beach about 5 years ago to find peace in her life after suffering a debilitating stroke. After spending one year in the hospital for recovery, Velia needed a change.

“After my treatment, I decided to change everything.” Velia said she was looking for a place with no stress and wanted to get away from the big city; she finally settled on Colonial Beach.

Velia said she never had any interest in drawing or painting, either as a child or an adult. When she came to Colonial Beach, she became friends with Colonial Beach artist and proprietor of Shirl’s, Shirley Rush. Rush encouraged Velia to paint.

From the moment Velia started to paint, she showed great talent. She paints mostly in watercolors and adds acrylics for some details. Her paintings are all different; she said she mostly paints at night when she has peace and quiet.

Velia paints what she feels, saying, “Empty or lonely places; that’s me.” She describes herself as outgoing, but she keeps her personal life and feelings to herself. She did admit that her paintings help her to communicate what she feels.

Both women have similar stories of overcoming great odds. That must be why they get along so well. It is also interesting that Velia’s teacher and inspiration, Shirley Rush, was also briefly a student of Olga’s. Both Velia’s and Olga’s work will be on display throughout the months of March and April at the Riverview Inn.

 

—Linda Farneth

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