Imagine my excitement (!) to learn that I had been selected as a trainee for the National Endowment for the Arts-sponsored Creative Center Training Institute for Artists and Administrators, March 26 -March 30, 2018. I would be joining a group of selected professionals from around the world who are “devoted to bringing best practices in art-making, program development and implementation to older adults across the aging spectrum and people living with illness“. Our cohort would participate in presentations, workshops and site visits, led by national leaders in the field of arts and aging, including topics like:
- Getting Old: The Aging Body, Mind and Soul
- A New Perspective on Dementia
- Crafting Careers in Arts-in-Healthcare and Creative Aging
- Meet Me at MoMA: The Alzheimer’s Project at The Museum of Modern Art
- Older Professional Artists: A Model for Society
- Opening Minds Through Art: an intergenerational program
- Sustaining Arts in Health Programming: from “Friendraising” to “Fundraising”
- Creative Aging and Arts in Healthcare: The Current “State” of the Field
…Sounds really interesting, right?!
The final five day itinerary was packed with great content. I was so looking forward to meeting fellow arts administration colleagues from all over the world and learning more about creative aging in one of my favorite cities, New York. Our cohort met every day at the University Settlement building in the Lower East Side, near the Tenement Museum. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know one of my favorite New York neighborhoods more. A lovely location!
Here’s the week in review, speaker line up, notes and some “takeaways” from the week:
WELCOME and REMARKS
Making the Case – Robin Glazer, Director, The Creative Center at University Settlement
PRESENTATION: Getting Old: The Aging Body, Mind and Soul presented by Rosanne Leipzig, MD, PhD, Vice Chair, Education, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai
WORKSHOP: Finger Knitting: How to Teach Something Really Hard and What You Learn in the Process by Maxine Levinson, Instructor, Knitty City
PRESENTATION and Panel Discussion: Careers in Creative Aging: What Does it Take to Craft this Work? Dani Reuben, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Tina Marie Ferguson, Artsy Smartsy
PRESENTATION: A New Perspective on Dementia by Meredith Wong, Manager, connect2culture, CaringKind
WORKSHOP: Inkblots: Imagining in the Moment by Margaret Peot, Author, Artist, Costume Painter
LUNCH and Learn: Lifetime Arts: Fostering Lifelong Learning, Maura O’Malley, CEO, Ed Friedman, Executive Director
PRESENTATION and Workshop: Storycorps: Memory Loss Initiative and the Legacy Project
Maura Johnson, Program Specialist, Storycorps Community Training
FIELD TRIP: Meet Me at MoMA: The Alzheimer’s Project, Carrie McGee, Assistant Director, Community and Access Programs at the Museum of Modern Art
LUNCH and discussion – (box lunch in MoMA classroom)
(***I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Textile Arts Center and meet with staff and get a tour!)
PRESENTATION: SuCasa NYC: Best Practice Symposium
PRESENTATION and Film: Older Professional Artists: A Model for Society by Joan Jeffri, Director/Founder, Research Center for Arts and Culture at the Actors Fund
ARTIST STUDIO VISITS: Interviewing older artists in their homes and studios
LUNCH and Reporting on visits
Free afternoon at MoMA
PRESENTATION and WORKSHOP: Opening Minds Through Art by Elizabeth Lokon, PhD, Scripps Gerontology Center; Founder and Director, Opening Minds Through Art with Beth Rohrbaugh, Assistant Director, OMA
PRESENTATION: Creative Aging: The State of the Field by Jennie Smith-Peers, ED at the National Center for Creative Aging
WRAP-UP and Good-byes
Some program notes:
Robin Glazer, Director, The Creative Center opened the week with “nothing cures the soul like art“. Glazer state that the creative aging field is a growing field, but still a very under-funded field. She shared there are many people working in this field and many of the people both working and being served in this sector live alone. She had the wise advice to always be generous – give gifts of any/all sizes and give them often.
Rosanne Leipzig, MD, PhD, Vice Chair, Education, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai was a dynamic and very knowledgeable speaker and asked the cohort some pointed questions about aging and some eye-opening statistics from recent studies. 70% of people over 85 report their health is excellent. 20% of people over 65 have significant limitations of care. 13% of people over 85 are living in nursing homes in the United States. 22% pf people over age 85 have dementia. She also brought up the issue of ageism – a topic that came up almost every day of the conference. Leipzig shared how ageism has a huge negative impact and is caused by negative images in the media – news, TV, movies and assumptions (i.e. old people are neglectful, forgetful, afraid, incompetent, hate technology, etc.). She covered changes that occur in the body and mind as we age: balance, vision, hearing, appearance, forgetful moments, sensitive to medications, difficulty multitasking, difficulty problem solving, difficulty making decisions, dehydration (drink lots of water!). Positive things about aging shared by Leipzing were: less insecurity, more likely to see “the big picture”, time feels limited and more focused on the present moment, wisdom, more time, etc. She suggested that we all need to make peace with aging and be adaptive and she shared the Reinhold Niebuhr quote: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
Tina Marie Ferguson, founder of Artsy Smartsy (…and Minnesota native and fellow University of Minnesota College of Design alum!) shared her interesting for-profit business model of bringing arts programming to elders. She did have businesses in both Minnesota and Arizona but is now focusing her business operations in Arizona. She stated that her business model was now sustainable. She relies on contracted teaching artists to work at the various sites to bring creative arts programming to seniors. She stated her mother, an artist, was her inspiration and informed her own work and curriculum for the program.
Dani Reuben, of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council‘s presentation was of particular interest to me since she was coming from the program administration/public service sector. She describe the innovative SU-CASA program. SU-CASA is a community arts engagement program that places artists and organizations in residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The program provides selected artists with a stipend in exchange for the creation and delivery of arts programming for seniors. She shared that the program has three goals: to positively impact, reinvigorate community and to increase opportunity. Artists currently receive a $4,500 stipend over a 6 month period.
The StoryCorps: Memory Loss Initiative and the Legacy Project with Maura Johnson was incredibly interesting. We learned how to ask good questions to get great stories from elders. The presentation emphasized the importance of storytelling – especially as we age. We were challenged to ask meaningful questions, such as:
- What inspired you to pursue your work?
- What is your earliest memory?
- Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
- When did you first fall in love?
- Describe yourself at age 15
- Has your life been different than you imagined it would be?
- What are you the proudest of in your life?
- If you could do anything now, what would it be? Why?
One of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the Meet Me at MoMA: The Alzheimer’s Project presentation by Carrie McGee, Assistant Director, Community and Access Programs at the Museum of Modern Art. She offered our cohort tips on how to talk about artwork with those with memory loss. She recommended trying a “one word” response approach – asking the group to identify one word that comes to mind when looking at a work. Again, to ask open-ended questions like: what do you see that makes you say that? Can you tell me more? Can you expand on that? She stressed the importance of validating what is seen/said and trying to generate new conversation. McGee also mentioned barrier to museum participation like: physical, financial, information and attitude (they “don’t belong”). She shared how MoMA’s “Prime Time program tries to address these barriers. It was a great experience and especially nice to be able to have some quiet time at the museum before it was open to the public.
After the MoMA, I was able to squeeze in a quick visit with the wonderful staff at the Textile Arts Center in Manhattan (they have two locations – another in Brooklyn that I did not have time to visit, unfortunately). TAC has a lovely space in a historic walk up building. As I approached, there was an artist working in the storefront window in a light-filled studio. After meeting with staff after a tour of the facility, I learned that the artist was part of their Artist in Residence (TAC AIR) program that equips emerging artists and designers with resources and skills to better articulate their practices and contribute to their communities. Situated at the intersection of a studio residency and an academic program, TAC AIR combines studio access with a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum, regular critical dialogue and mentorship. The artist that was working as I arrived was Tai Hwa Goh. TAC did a very nice profile on her and her work: http://textileartscenter.com/blog/work-in-progress-tai-hwa-goh/ After a wonderful discussion with staff I learned more about their programming and possible future partner programming that the Weavers Guild of Minnesota could do together for 2019. Learn more about TAC here: www.textileartscenter.com
A highlight of the week was the artist studio tours. In smaller groups, we branched out into the city and were able to experience distinguished artists in their private studios or live/work spaces. I was paired with artist Lee Brozgol. Brozgol has been a pioneering artist ever since his move to New York’s Lower East Side in 1964. Growing up in Chicago, Brozgol has channeled the colorful, gritty energy of the Windy City into vibrant New York City public commissions. These include “The Greenwich Village Murals” at the IRT Christopher Street Subway Station and “Liberty–Our Story!” at Liberty High School in Manhattan. Brozgol’s customized ceramics have been the main focus of his mature style, allowing him to hone his love for personal detail, individual expression and collaboration with his patrons. His work has been shown at Grand Central Station, The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, the Paine Weber Gallery, The Tiberino Museum and, in 2006, he had a retrospective at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. We had a lively discussion and the visit provided us the opportunity to put in to practice some of the open-ended questioning techniques we learned earlier, such as:
- What, in your mind makes you an artist? Did you always think of yourself as an artist? Where you formally trained?
- What is your primary medium? Are there others you would like to try? Why?
- Do you make your living as an artist? How do you balance your time and work?
- Describe how you came to work in this space? Has the neighborhood changed?
- Where do you find your inspiration?
It was a fantastic week and really wonderful to be with fellow colleagues from NYC, the United States, the UK, Canada and Chile! I made a running list of possible to-do’s or takeaways from the week that I thought I could implement in my own organization and/or creative practice. The list topped to 36. Some immediate “top” ideas for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota (“WGM”) could be:
- Implement a StoryCorps organizational page and collect member stories (we have some very interesting, accomplished members!)
- Partner with hospital and other medical sector sites for arts and aging programs
- 2019 field trip to NYC for WGM?Workshops with the Textile Arts Center, museum visits, etc.
- Look into new takes on “family programs” – offer a “Mother-Daughter” class?
- More purposeful inter-generational programming
- Create an artist in residency program?
- Create a apprentice program
- Set up monthly learning lunches
- Start meetings off with a fun art making activity
- Teacher training for WGM instructors on how to maximize classes with elder audiences (VSA, etc?)
- Open house at WGM
I want to thank the Creative Center for making my attendance possible with a full scholarship and WGM for allowing me to attend. It was a worth while, professional experience. Check out some more photos from the week here>