by Missy Ricksecker
Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Recent scientific research gives this axiom tangible meaning for older adults by demonstrating that involvement in creative pursuits has a positive effect on physical health, mental health, and social functioning as a person ages, regardless of their ability (Arts and Aging Toolkit, Chapter 2).
The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) recognizes the power of creation as a transformational experience for the men and women who participate in the arts as older adults. The agency’s new Artful Aging Ohio (AAO) initiative was created to connect senior adults with teaching artists to learn about the arts and engage in hands-on art making. The National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) was a catalyst for this statewide effort; Ohio is one of 13 states invited by the NCCA to form a community of practice to explore ways to strengthen the presence of the arts in the lives of senior adults.
“This programming answers the call to be a part of redefining our latter years as adults as a time of endless opportunities and heightened creative productivity,” said OAC Arts Learning Coordinator Chiquita Mullins Lee. To launch this investment in lifelong learning in the arts in Ohio, an AAO team comprised of gifted professionals who share a passion for working with senior populations has been assembled. Team members include Stacia Davis-Moore, who will conduct research on the effectiveness of art making by seniors; Goldean Gibbs, who has extensive experience in education; and OAC roster artist Patty Mitchell, who brings a wealth of artistic talent and experience as a resident artist in diverse settings, including those serving senior adults.
- The AAO team has designed a pilot artist residency program in five Ohio regions: central, southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest. The first pilot residency began on December 1 in Athens at The Laurels, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. OAC resident artist Patty Mitchell is leading a Winter Wonderland-themed group art project. The finished work will be on display at The Laurels with a public reception on December 16.
Organizations with large senior adult populations and current OAC roster artists interested in leading an AAO residency should contact Goldean Gibbs for more information. (Artists not on the OAC artist roster must first apply for the OAC’s Artist in Residence program and should contact Chiquita Mullins Lee.)
- The OAC recently awarded a grant to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRIA) in Cleveland. BRIA is dedicated to addressing the important issues of aging, and the grant will support their efforts to train teaching artists to work with senior adults.
In the future, AAO hopes to create a comprehensive network of senior service agencies. The team is currently in various stages of developing partnerships/programs with Beautiful Minds, the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, and the NCAA.
“The benefits go beyond providing positive results for older individuals right now,” said OAC Executive Director Donna Collins. “Engaging older adults through arts and aging programs creates lasting benefits for the entire community. Ohioans of all ages benefit when the arts serve as a bridge to foster communication across generations, income, abilities, and cultures.”
Photos courtesy of the National Center for Creative Aging