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Berkshire county excels at honoring artists, and during the month of February that honor will be extended to four exceptional artists who have overcome a variety of challenges to create remarkable work. They will be featured in a show at Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, MA.

The artists are Noel Gilson, Louisa Hastings Millonzi, Susan Croll and Francesca Patricia Brown, and all
four women have intellectual disabilities. They live at Riverbrook, and their paintings and photography draw largely on themes of community and the natural beauty of the Berkshires.

Art has a long history of being used as a therapeutic tool, and the positive effect of creativity on these
artists is easy to see. Photographer Sue Croll reports that being behind a camera makes her feel “happy,
confident and proud.”

This will be lifelong painter Francesca Brown’s 6th art show since moving to the Berkshires; she has been
prolific during her time as the Red Lion Inn’s Artist in Residence, and her work frequently sells out.

Stop by Bushnell-Sage Library, 48 Main Street in Sheffield, MA, any time this month to see Riverbrook artists’ exceptional work!


FRANCESCA PATRICIA BROWN was born in Boston and raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Her dream to be an artist was first vocalized in third grade when she wrote in her journal: “I am in sixth grade and I am 13 years old…. I want to be an artist and do paintings like my Grandma.” She had been in numerous Gateway group shows – among them a Barney’s window! She had also been selected to exhibit one piece of her artwork with the Massachusetts Arc for their annual Art Show fundraisers. To date as a resident of Riverbrook she has held five art shows selling nearly all of her works. In future months, Franny will be learning different styles of art such as printing, hand building with clay and new brush techniques.

SUSAN “SUE” CROLL was born in Hamburg, New Jersey the daughter of a kindergarten schoolteacher, Sue’s parents believed that she should receive a more focused education and she was enrolled in Kolburne School at age 6. Sue learned the art of photography from her nephew, Bobby Ferris who advised her to start photographing buildings (because they didn’t move.) Once she mastered that, he suggested moving on to people. Sue approaches her photography very politely always asking first before snapping a shot! Susan is inspired mostly by nature. A tree, a stream or an array of colors can prompt her artistic eye. While taking pictures she states she is “happy, confident and proud of her work.”

LOUISA HASTINGS MILLONZI was born in New York City and comes from a long line of inspirational family artists. She credits her Grandpa Cooney, Mother Kate and Aunt Meg as the people who introduced her to the art world. In addition to being an active participant in the photography group, Louisa enjoys painting scenery and landscapes, and has a true appreciation for Modern Art. When Louisa is not painting or taking pictures, she is pursuing her first love, public speaking. Having given several speeches in the community thus far, she is continuing to develop her repertoire to become the “voice of people with disabilities.”


NOEL GILSON was born in Bethesda, Maryland. The daughter of a military doctor, Noel traveled abroad with her family until settling into Riverbrook in 1985. A lover of nature, Noel enjoys many outdoor activities including hiking, swimming, skiing and gardening. Noel’s interest in photography is self-directed. After receiving a camera from her family for Christmas, she independently set it up to her own specifications and started snapping pictures immediately. Noel’s aptitude for technology is impressive! Legal blindness does not deter Noel from pursuing photography as she is able to see shapes and shadows and the effect that light has on altering images. Noel is proud of her work and is happy to share with others her unique view of the world.

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