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97-Year-Old Artist Henrietta Mantooth Getting Ready For Gold Standard Arts Festival On Upper West Side

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A 97-year-old New York City artist is getting her paintings ready for a spring arts festival.

To watch Henrietta Mantooth at work is to see a master channeling wit, wisdom and warmth into art.

"See, it's easy to paint. You could all do it," she told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

In December, this artist, theatrical set designer and performer turned 97.

"It's very exciting to be old," Mantooth said. "I don't think about stopping."

A passion for journalism brought her to New York City from Kansas City at the end of World War II, and for about two decades, she reported for magazines while traveling across Latin America.

She wrote about civil rights, then her art told and amplified similar stories.

"I'm in tears a lot internally about the race issue ... our border," she said. "You know, my paintings have, the subject matter sometimes is quite dire, but there's something about the way that I work ... that energy brings hope, I think."

What comes up again and again in her work -- houses and other memories from her childhood, particularly her mother.

"She's a heroine for me ... She could do anything," Mantooth said. "She could paper a wall ... She could make a suit."

Mantooth is preparing for her upcoming exhibit in the Gold Standard Arts Festival, celebrating older artists with enviable talent and spirit.

Caytha Jentis is the festival's co-director.

"People can find art at any stage of life and we just want to basically encourage that," she said.

"I wanted to do the things that boys did and I did," Mantooth said. "I wanted to have children. I had them. I had my career. I had a husband who didn't stand in my way and, you know, yeah, I lived my life the way I wanted."

She says looking back at her accomplishments is not her style.

As CBS2 left her hands were back in motion with more work to do.

The Gold Standard Arts Festival opens on April 25 in various Upper West Side locations. For more information on the program and featured artists, click here.

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