"And the beat goes on……………….."
Day 2 - Arts and Aging / Arts and Healing Blog Forum
Question # 2:
What do you think the role of individual arts organizations across the country is, and might be, in the relationships of art and aging / healing? How can arts organizations who want to be involved in these areas move forward? What are the steps involved, and what are the opportunities and the barriers and obstacles to mounting successful projects and partnerships that will address the aging / healing arenas? Where can existing intersections be expanded, and how? Working artists are crucial to these efforts. What skills do artists need to work in the aging and healing areas?Connie Martinez:
Because arts organizations are typically undercapitalized, the best way to get them involved is making it easy and financially viable or profitable for them to integrate artful aging into their existing work. That starts by: 1) helping to quantify earned income potential from existing programs and services that can be offered to the “boomer” market without turning your organization inside out; 2) creating philanthropic incentives or seed funding to incubate new programs aligned with the movement; and 3) investing in systems or ways that easily connect supply (programs) with demand (artful agers).
As for the working artist, the key is to have paying clients that know your value and how to reach you. Some clients may be individuals but most likely the artist will need connectors or “systems” clients eg health care systems, community centers etc. Thus creating a qualified working artist directory that connects supply (artists) and demand (system clients) is imperative.
I know that special skills are required for teaching artists serving aging adults and I am eager to learn, but don’t really know.
Opportunities Abound for Artists and Arts Organizations
A constellation of opportunities awaits artists and arts organizations related to aging/healing. Some have already taken a deep dive into this work – 43% of visual arts museums have programs for caregivers and their care partners. Adult education is booming in theaters and music halls. I heard from the National Symphony this week about their program serving older adults. Have you picked up a community college class catalogue lately? The arts are front and center in continuing education, and older students are often offered free tuition to monitor classes including the arts. From arts camps for older people to sleep-overs in museums, there is no limit to arts entrepreneurship. The Museum of Modern Art is producing a stunning array of programming called Prime Time for the 55+ crowd. Encore Chorales, a professionally led choral group for older adults, sing their way across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. Former band members are polishing up their instruments to play in the New Horizon Bands promoted by the Eastman School of Music. The National Association of Music Makers (NAMM) has coined the phrase “recreational music making” to classify this new business model for their instrument makers and music stores.
Blue Ocean Theory
The Harvard Business Journal published an article titled Blue Ocean Strategy, which proposed a theory of business development where the prevailing paradigms shifts to such a degree that whole new business streams of products and services are needed to supply the opening demands of a new target population. We in the arts are now in this kind of Blue Ocean. The work we do requires a new, entrepreneurial business model. Artists and arts organizations should assess their constituent communities needs, match the appropriate assets to them, and find new partners in the related fields that support the target populations. Again, we need to focus on the end user – an adult with plenty of life experience who desires to be engaged in the arts as a creator.
Building the Foundation
A historical perspective on the state of the arts, aging and health over the past 10 years can be found in a recently published article by the Gerontological Society of America’s Special Issue on the White House Conference on Aging. It describes substantial growth in services in the areas of lifelong learning, health and wellness, and application in community design. The interprofessional work between arts organizations, healthcare providers and social services such as those tracked through geriatric center consortia in Washington DC and the University of New England provides a breathtaking look at how older traditional artists/craftsman can be utilized to promote a strength based approach to healthcare serving older people and a new appreciation of the arts.
Challenges of Supply
Barriers and obstacles are falling as the new demographic swells the demand side. We are well beyond Bingo now. High quality accessible supply is our barrier to building this new market place for the arts, aging and health services. At the recent White House Conference on Aging Summit on Creativity and Aging in America participants were tasked with articulating the issues and needs; barriers to resolutions; and support needed from related partners serving the three major sectors of arts/design – lifelong learning, health and wellness and age friendly community design. The major findings were basically the same across all three:
Issues: Social justice particularly in regards to ageism, a need for culture change, adequate supply of high quality programs, products and services that are accessible in both rural and urban communities
Barriers: Lack of professional development; research; business models; common language; infrastructure and funding
Support: Incentivization through capital investments; tax credits; insurance reimbursement; inclusion/infusion of the arts into aging, health and communities services to facilitate place making
A white paper is being developed that will go into depth on issues raised, barriers identified and support requested. The leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts, piloted by the tireless Beth Bienvenu, Director of the Office of Accessibility in partnership with her colleagues Sunil Iyengar, Director of Research, and Jason Schupbach, Director of Design, brought together the key partners in the intersection of arts and aging. This convening was dedicated with strong support from Chairman Chu to continue this robust focus on serving all Americans across their lifespans through providing accessibility to high quality arts participation and community design.
The Rock in the Pool
Teaching artists are crucial in these efforts along with other professionals – life enrichment, social workers, clergy, healthcare providers, family caregivers, and volunteers. Anne Basting, Founder of TimeSlips, calls the artist “the rock in the pool.” Artists are the only ones that can make the arts a process of meaning making for adults/older adults. Let me say clearly that older adults want to paint, sculpt, dance, act and play music. They do not want to be in arts programs for the aging. They want to be in arts programs – no dumbing down and that goes for people with chronic illness. All programs for adults should be pitched on a higher education level. To do this, artists involved in work with older adults must work peer to peer. In the 1950’s we called this teaching mythology andragogy – differing from pedagogy, which is all skill-based learning. Andragogy uses life experiences and is highly learner driven. Carl Jung stated that the arts and spirituality are ageless but that they flourish with age. Let me also clarify that the arts in healthcare settings differ only in what artists must learn to produce programs in a clinical environment. These are accommodations that keep the art making safe and appropriate for the health status of the patient. Again, aging is not an illness, and healing is vital in all phases of life.
Support for artists and arts organizations is available for those diving into this work. In partnership with the National Guild for Community Arts Education and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, NCCA produced a free online toolkit for organizations. Webinars updating this information are conducted on an ongoing basis along with conference presentations across arts service organizations. At least nine regional conferences on creative aging took place this year – in Florida, North Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Minneapolis, Pennsylvania, Utah, Tennessee and Arizona. NCCA presented our second Leadership Exchange. The professional communities in attendance were those at the intersection of the arts, aging, education, and health and community services. Artists especially have a range of new training tools such as the NCCA online artists training resource. Over 250,000 learners from 153 countries have used this tool. Lifetime Arts in conjunction with Aroha Philanthropies is poised to produce a best practice institute designed to elevate and codify effective ways of working in the field. It is my hope, along with others in the field, that higher education will take seriously the need for training arts educators, arts administrators and artists to serve adults/older adults.
Finally, building sustainable services depends on securing consistent resources. Like any new area of business expansion, arts organizations need capital to deepen their work and expand programs to serve across the lifespan. The MetLife Foundation was the lead funder in arts and aging for over a decade, providing millions of dollars every year to large and small groups. MetLife certainly helped NCCA to grow, built out programs like Meet Me at MoMA, and provided grants and awards programs to the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Lifetime Arts and Elders Share the Arts, along with many other hybrid programs serving older people, received organizational support. When corporate changes were on the horizon, MetLife Foundation funded NCCA to give technical assistance to three grant making affinity groups – Grantmakers in the Arts, Grantmakers in Aging and Grantmakers in Health. Each affinity group has produced resources for their grantmakers and each still continues to include creative aging in their conference presentation and webinars. Over 200 grantmakers participated in this partnership project over three years. I want to especially thank Janet Brown, Executive Director of Grantmakers in the Arts, for her leadership and consistent encouragement to this cause. Together, we found Ellen Michelson and Teresa Bonner, the two women behind Aroha Philanthropies who are taking a huge leadership role in artful aging. Margery Pabst of the Pabst Charitable Foundation for the Arts is doing heavy lifting to encourage, among other cutting edge arts-in-health projects, support for caregivers in using the arts. Other family foundations, including Helen Bader and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, are investing in arts programming that serves people with memory loss. The field grows healthier as more funders become interested but many more are needed to fill the gap that the MetLife Foundation left. Indeed, the case is being made for investing in this work not as new programming but as hybrid portfolios of programmatic support in arts, aging, and health and community services to serve individuals across their lifespans.
At the most basic level, arts organizations who are thoughtful about their relationship with long term subscribers, members, donors and participants must engage in revised and improved practices regarding older audiences.
For years we have talked about the need for daytime productions, morning events, easy access to classes and lectures and even seating in museum galleries. And yet, for all of this talk, there is little evidence that our leading arts organizations have been listening.
For those arts organizations that are willing and prepared to go deeper, I would encourage them to proactively pursue partnerships and collaboration opportunities to develop creative aging specific programming. Here in Arizona, organizations like the Phoenix Art Museum and Mesa Arts Center have become an integral part of the healthy aging infrastructure of their local communities by fostering partnerships with health and senior service organizations and leveraging their existing assets to increase their value to older adults.
Professional teaching artists also have a vital role to play in providing services and resources for older adults and as the creative aging movement continues to build momentum, demand for their skills and talents will increase greatly. We need to begin now to prepare the field for this increased demand. Our teaching artists’ training has been primarily geared toward working in our k-12 school systems and community venues. Teaching artists will need additional specialized education and professional development to be successful working with older adults, in senior community centers and in care and respite centers, for example. At the Arts Commission we have made this one of the three priorities of our new Creative Aging Initiative.
Maura O’Malley and Ed Friedman:
For arts organizations who want to be involved in this area it means a culture change. Historically, arts groups have embraced K-12 arts education. It is an area that speaks to using the arts to further an educational agenda; to growing a new audience for the arts; and it’s a programmatic thrust that is always popular. And not to be too cynical, but it’s also an area for which funding is available and for which fundraising efforts have been successful. To move into the area of arts and aging in a meaningful way, arts organizations have to not only familiarize themselves with the research around arts and aging, but understand how these programs contribute to the quality of life of older adults. For years arts groups have chased the “white whale” of younger patrons. What they’re ignoring is the asset that’s most accessible; the majority of their audience which is middle aged and older patrons. A concerted effort to provide meaningful, participatory programs to this cohort will strengthen this audience/arts organization relationship. This stronger connection has the potential to result in more subscribers, donors and possibly board members. Arts groups already have access to teaching artists who know how to create curriculum and provide instruction. What these teaching artists need is training to acquire the skills and information necessary to be able to expand their teaching repertoire to be effective teaching artists for these age cohorts. Among the areas about which teaching artists need to be familiar are, the differences between community-based voluntary instruction and mandatory school-based classes; principles of adult learning; accommodations for physical limitations; and most importantly - sensitivity to ageism, understanding that one cannot generalize about the capabilities and capacities of older adults. Arts organizations have to begin to raise the bar and encourage older adults to be active participants rather than passive acceptors of entertainment.
I would suggest that arts organizations contact the appropriate departments (e.g., psychology, neuroscience, therapy) of local colleges and universities to explain their work and suggest cooperative investigations. In academia, newer department members are often anxious to generate publications in order to qualify for tenure. I think it is vital that scientists and artists work as a team because they both offer indispensible knowledge. Few researchers have in-depth understanding of any particular art form and, conversely, few artists are experts in scientific research design.
The first thing arts organizations need to do is expand their thinking about how they engage older adults. It’s time to embrace and deepen these opportunities. Entertainment is not enough. Older adults don’t only want to learn about an art form; many want to learn the art form themselves. They want the joy of creativity and the sense of purpose and meaning that come with it. This parallels the way arts organizations have engaged children and families over time, moving from simply bringing youth to performances and museums, to creating opportunities for youth to make art themselves.
As arts organizations do this, they need to better understand who older adults really are. Too often, we see the stereotype, not the person, and we don’t ask what these individuals need and want. Today, “older” spans 40 or more years – who would put everyone from 10 to 50 years old in one category and expect them to be alike?
Arts organizations that want to engage in this work have many sources of information. The National Guild for Community Arts Education published a great guidebook, Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit. The National Center for Creative Aging, engagedaging.org, is a wealth of information and contacts. The NEA’s Office for Accessibility offers technical assistance and is a great resource. Over 30 state arts agencies interested in creative aging are participating in shared learning through an NEA/NCCA program called “Communities of Practice.” Aroha Philanthropies has developed an informal resource guide on artful aging.
The professional teaching artist is crucial to development and expansion of this movement. Successful artful aging programs are led by professional teaching artists who combine their creative process with a deep understanding of older adults, their needs and wants. The teaching artist must be proficient in the essentials of sequential arts learning and embrace the wide range of abilities and interests of people from 55 – 100+ years of age – no small task!
Aroha Philanthropies is particularly interested in the development of professional teaching artists who want to work with older adults. We believe they have the “secret sauce” that makes artful aging programs so amazing. We need many more of them. Through our work with Lifetime Arts, we have surveyed the field to better understand how organizations engage, hire, train and support teaching artists who work with adult populations. The survey results are informing the development of a teaching-artist training program that will incorporate the very best practices in the field.
Last, arts organizations know that successful collaborations spring from personal outreach and trusting relationships, and there are terrific examples of how this can be built. The San Francisco Community Music Center approached the city’s aging and adult services program, as well as community centers, as they developed programming for older adults. MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis reached out to senior housing organizations to deliver programs for their residents. The American Composers Forum has paired composers and choirs with a pediatric hospital to create and perform work based on the lives of real patients. The list is exciting and growing.
Our first responsibility is to take it seriously…to listen, to learn and understand what works and what doesn’t. Out of that model comes developmentally centered and more sophisticated programming. All arts organizations have a responsibility to execute very well. At MacPhail, we engage with people through music in a very participatory way, and it is our teaching artists that make a world of difference for the participant. Older adults tend to put a greater emphasis on proper credentials and qualifications for our teachers. But these teachers also need to have compassion, patience and an understanding of the power of shared goals. A bit of self-deprecation and a good sense of humor also helps. These are insights from being an arts provider at all ages and seeing how older adults differ in their approach and their needs.
We have found that there is no set guidebook, and that every population is different, but someone has to go in and make it their own, create that solid foundation first and then adapt it to their settings and share their findings.
The Forum continues tomorrow.
Have a great day.