Thursday, July 4, 2019

Newark Museum Interview

Good morning
"And the beat goes on................."


Note:  This is the final interview in a series with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors.  A wrap up, including resources, will post next week.  

The Newark Museum "operates, as it has since its founding, in the public trust as a museum of service, and a leader in connecting objects and ideas to the needs and wishes of its constituencies.  We believe that our art and science collections have the power to educate, inspire and transform individuals of all ages, and the local, regional, national and international communities that we serve.

  In the words of founding Director John Cotton Dana:  "A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, 
leads to questioning—and thus promotes learning."


Project Description:  

Contemporary Book Arts:
Explore a sampling of printing and book-making methods during 8 four-hour sessions: monoprinting, basic intaglio and relief printing and binding practices.

Create your own small suite of personalized books, both blank and content-filed. View contemporary and historical artist books and printed ephemera; learn through demonstration, hands-on making and experimentation.
Beginners welcome!

Mixed Media Sculpture:
During eight 2-hour sessions, learn to construct your own creative sculptures from repurposed objects, inspired by works on view at the Newark Museum. Manipulate and transform found and commonplace materials like discarded textiles, plastics, paper, wire, wood, beads and small household objects into art works, using two and three dimensional assemblage and construction techniques.


Interview: 

Barry:  What made you want to pursue a vitality arts program for seniors?  Had your organization had previous experience with crafting programs specifically designed to appeal to seniors?
The

Newark Museum: Newark Museum has recently been working to rebuild ongoing hands-on adult workshops and courses. Beginning in 1930, the Newark Museum’s Arts Workshops provided opportunities for our local population to engage in the Museum’s collections through artmaking programs. After eighty-eight years of continuous programs, the Arts Workshop programs were ended due to declining attendance and funding. Many of the participants in these programs were retirees (seniors) and have made it clear that there is strong interest in reviving the programs.

Barry:  Your project encompassed two separate opportunities for seniors: 1) book making, and 2) mixed media sculpture.  How did you settle on these two art forms, and why?

Newark Museum:  The subject of the courses was determined using suggestions from participants of previous programs, and by surveying the Museum’s docents (mostly seniors). Additionally, the Museum’s exhibition schedule influenced the decision. The mixed media sculpture course was directly connected to a recent commission of figure by a contemporary Native American artist, Jeffrey Gibson.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what line items were included?  Were there expenses that were unanticipated?  Did you leverage additional funding from other sources?  What sources, and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

Newark Museum:  The budget included lines for Teaching Artist fees, Program Supplies, Marketing, Administration time, Part-time educator assistance, travel expenses, and catering for the reception. All budget lines were spent as anticipated except for travel expenses. Before the program began we thought we would spend more on bussing participants to the Museum and less on providing parking at the Museum.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved.  How did you develop your team to oversee the project?  What roles did you include - teaching artist, project manager, marketing, evaluation, et. al. ?

Newark Museum:  The overall workload and time spent facilitating the four Vitality Arts programs in 2018 was generally as expected. The team consisted of the Teaching Artists, Project Administrator, Project Manager, and the Museum’s Marketing staff. After the spring courses, the Project Administrator left the Museum and her responsibilities were added to those of the Project Manager. The aspect of this project that was underestimated (or not presented clearly) was the reporting process. More time than expected has been spent on reporting the project. 


Barry:  The Aroha projects mandated inclusion of teaching artists to conduct the training for the senior participants.  How did you go about recruiting those teaching artists?  What was involved in their training and involvement for this project that you didn’t anticipate at the outset?  Were there benefits to the teaching artists involvement that came as a bonus?

Newark Museum:  The Newark Museum relies on the expertise of teaching artists for all our hands-on courses and workshops. The teaching artists for the Vitality Arts courses were found within the expansive network the Museum has cultivated over the years. The teaching artists used time before the courses to study the Museum’s collections and develop a curriculum that would support social interaction between students while creating opportunities for greater understanding and deeper appreciation for the Museum’s objects. 


Barry:  Did the project involve any collaborative efforts and / or partnerships with other organizations within the community, such as with universities, senior centers, care facilities or otherwise?  How did those come about and how did they work?  How critical were those to the success of the project?

Newark Museum:  Most of the Mixed Media sculpture course participants were involved with the course through a partnership with a local senior center. The senior center promoted the course to their audience and served as a pick up and drop off point for a hired bus company. This partnership helped to ensure access to the programs for people without transportation and help to provide experiences that the senior center is otherwise unable to provide.

The Contemporary Book Arts class utilized the Museum branch of the Newark Public Library system to further their study. During one of the sessions the participants met with the Museum’s Librarian, William Peniston, to view rare books and various types of binding techniques.


Barry:  Who did you target as participants in the project?  Was recruiting senior participants easy or difficult?  How did you deal with issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, dealing with disability and / or transportation issues of the senior participants etc.

Newark Museum:  For each Vitality Arts course the Museum creates an Eventbrite page which is embedded into the Courses & Workshops page of the Museum’s website. The link for this page is then added to digital member newsletters and shared on social media platforms. For the Contemporary Books Arts course, this marketing strategy was able to sell out the course. For the Mixed Media Sculpture course, only a few people registered using Eventbrite. To recruit more participants, the Museum collaborated with a local senior center to offer the course to their audience. The transportation costs for the senior center collaboration we predicted and were covered by grant funding. 


Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants?

Newark Museum:  Eventbrite registration, email, targeted social media, printed cards and member mailings



Barry:  What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from the organization’s point of view?  How did you evaluate the project during its course, and post completion?

Newark Museum:  The main criteria for the success of the course was the commitment of the participants. Weekly attendance was used to determine the level of commitment. Course participants also completed a pre-program survey and a post-program survey that evaluated interest and engagement using Likert scale assessments. In addition, the teaching artists completed a weekly program log that tracked progress during the course, and included successes and challenges in facilitation and individual participant’s progress.


Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project in the provision of services to seniors in the creative aging arena?  How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering this, or new and additional projects to the senior community in the future?

Newark Museum:  Facilitating programs for a senior audience has unique challenges that influence the format and delivery of our courses. The Vitality Arts program consisted of one session per week over 8 weeks. This commitment of time was challenging for participants. Although many were retired, some worked part-time and had variable schedules. Some participants could not predict more than a week forward if they would be scheduled to work and if they would be able attend the next session of the course. Others had personal and familial commitments that prevented them from attending all sessions. When considering our future programs for seniors, a shorter time commitment may benefit both the facilitation of the course but also the rate of participation. 


Barry:  When you conceived the project, what obstacles and barriers did you identify, and was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there elements that surprised you?

Newark Museum:  During the initial planning of the courses, transportation to and from the Museum was identified to be an obstacle for seniors from Newark that may not drive and may rely on public transportation. To address this obstacle, the Museum partnered with a local senior center which acted as a gathering point transportation to the Museum. 


Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project?  What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, new audience members, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

Newark Museum:  By offering two courses each spring and fall over the past two years, the Museum has dramatically grown its audience for hands-on multi-session courses. Out of all the course participants surveyed, most are very interested in participating in future offerings.


Barry:  Would you recommend that other arts organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs? Why or why not?  What are the major considerations arts organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs?  What are the specific considerations in your experience that museums ought to consider in planning a creative aging vitality program?

Newark Museum:  Yes, it is our recommendation that other arts organizations create their own Vitality Arts programs. These programs allow organizations to connect with an audience that is traditionally neglected in educational efforts. Working with seniors also fosters social and cultural engagement and offers opportunities for seniors to be active in the community, while using their own life experiences to create objects with meaning.

One consideration to highlight when planning a senior program is to allow more time for conversation and discussion as well as more time for project-based aspects of the program. Both limitations in mobility and the general eagerness to share experiences and perspectives requires additional time in class.

Barry:  Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to the senior community?  Why or why not?

Newark Museum:  Yes. The Museum’s mission is to serve the local population.


Participant Observations:

1.  Geraldine Code - 
Single, 65 year old, former teacher, living in East Orange, New Jersey interested in ink art, fiber arts double dutch, working now part time teaching arts and crafts at the Boys and Girls Club.

She volunteered that she decided to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program to explore other areas of art less familiar to her.

In rating the program she said:
"The project met my expectations  I wish that it was longer.  i had fun exploring and discussing the collections and exhibits in the museum." 

Will you continue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?      Yes 

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"I would tell them to absolutely sign up and explore their creative side."



2.  Jean Goldstein - a married, 72 year old, former Counselor at a community college, living in West Orange, New Jersey interested in Reading, mah jongg, knitting, tennis, and art.

In your own words, please Rate and Review your involvement in the project:
Did it meet - or exceed - your expectations?  What were the benefits of participation?
"It was a fun experience. I enjoyed the teachers and other students, as well as learning about art or craft forms I had little or no knowledge about. I also liked being a part of a program at the Newark Museum"

As a result of the program, have you decided to become involved with the sponsoring organization in other ways - say as a volunteer, or audience member, or financial supporter or?
"I’ve considered volunteering at the museum but haven’t made the commitment to reach out and do so."

What advice can you give to the sponsoring organization to make the program better?
"Allow more time to complete projects; provide reduced parking at the museum for participants. Loved the receptions at the end of the courses for participants and our families."

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"Do it!"



3.  Betsy Vinegrad - a married,  61year old, former fashion industry tech designer, from Short Hills, New Jersey interested in sewing, quilting, knitting and attending art or craft shows and exhibits. Going to the theater.

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
"I saw the Fashion the Future: Wearable Technology class posted on Facebook. It looked like a great way to sample using some of the resources in the Maker Space."

In your own words, please Rate and Review your involvement in the project.
Did it meet - or exceed - your expectations?  What were the benefits of participation?
"I took 2 classes: Fashion the Future: Wearable Technology and Contemporary Book Arts. Both exceeded my expectations. Although I have a lot of experience in fashion, I still learned a lot. I had no experience in book arts and did not feel intimidated by my lack of knowledge. This is a credit to the teachers and the organizers." 

"There were no negatives. I was pleasantly surprised that the programs were tailored to allow those with no experience to learn and still keep those with experience engaged."  

Will you continue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?
"Yes. I would like to see shorter term workshops with deeper focus on parts of the series classes. For example, there could be workshops using the 3D printers or, one day doing mono printing."



4.  Elizabeth Wall - a  divorced, 70 year old former telecommunications consultant from Irvington, New Jersey interested in gemstone and silver jewelry creation, sewing, sketching/painting, vegetable and flower gardening, reading. 

"I have been on at least six day trips with the Newark Museum and the Environmental Center in Roseland NJ. I’m currently enrolled in the Rutgers Master Gardeners Course (three hour weekly class) which started September 2018 and concludes May 2019. Participating in this class has availed me of many opportunities to volunteer in Essex county: pruning trees at Brookdale Park, working at Branch Brook Park’s Concourse Hill area with other volunteers to clean up the area. Preparing (digging up) Canna plants for winter storage at Turtleback Zoo."

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
 "I am  interested in the arts and related programs."

Had you participated in any arts program like this before?
"The year before I participated in the 3d Jewelry Making program"

"I was surprised at the work that I produced in the class last year (painting). Having had no formal lessons in this subject, I had no idea that in such a short time I could accomplish so much."  

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"Choose your class and sign up for a life changing experience that you can continue with after class ends."



5.  Brigitte Wofford - 56 year old, married, teacher, interested in nature and wildlife, arts, reading, learning languages, exercise...

Why did you decide to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
"I liked the idea of combining making a piece of jewelry with learning 3D printing. I would have loved to take the other classes too, but I live far and I still work."

 "I really enjoyed the class. I got to meet people I would not have met otherwise, while learning in a fun environment."

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program? "
I would recommend it wholeheartedly." 


Thanks to Ryan Reedell at the Newark Museum for his help with the interview.


Have a great week end.

Don't Quit
Barry




Sunday, June 30, 2019

Paramount Center for the Arts Interview

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on......................."

Note:  This is the sixth interview in a series with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors.  The final interview to post at the end of the week, followed by a wrap up, including resources, next week. 


The mission of the Paramount Theatre & Visual Arts Center is to provide opportunities for artistic production, creative exploration, arts education and the enjoyment of arts and entertainment.
The facility is managed to ensure use by a diverse set of patrons, enhance artistic opportunity, provide a creative environment for community involvement in the arts, and generate a positive economic impact on Downtown St. Cloud.

Project Description:
Developed under the heading of Growing Art-FULL, designed for individuals over 55.
• (3) course mediums were developed: movement, clay, and choir
• (10) sessions per course – the tenth session being a culminating event, a concert or showcase
• Courses were held on the premises of (1) senior living facilities and (1) senior day program
• We rotated the mediums per facility into (3) session periods – so all (3) courses would be operating concurrently.
• Each class was led by (2) teaching artists - professionals in their unique field


Interview:

Barry:  What made you want to pursue a vitality arts program for seniors? Had the center had previous experience with crafting programs specifically designed to focus on arts, and appeal to seniors?

Paramount:  Past experience serving nursing homes with arts classes had been very successful and made us aware of the limited options available for residents in other areas of senior living facilities such as independent and assisted living. Paramount’s stage offerings drew a large number of seniors but our arts programming did not. The combination of perceived need and past success, along with the availability of quality teaching artists, made this grant opportunity a perfect match. We wanted to grow our service audience and expand our program offerings.

Barry:  Your project encompassed three separate opportunities for seniors: 1) dance - movement, 2) sculpture - clay, and 3) music - choir. What was the thinking in focusing on those three art forms?

Paramount:  First of all, these were areas of strengths for our facility and our teaching artists. Secondly, these were options not currently being offered in the facilities we hoped to work with. Third, this offered a visual, auditory and kinesthestic option to help us assess for future programming. Fourth, the activities could accommodate sufficient numbers of participants.

Barry:  The Aroha projects mandated inclusion of teaching artists to conduct the training for the senior participants. How did you go about recruiting those teaching artists? Was that easy, or more difficult than you imagined? What was involved in their training and involvement that you didn’t anticipate at the outset? Were there benefits to the teaching artists involvement that came as a bonus?

Paramount: We chose experienced artists whom we trusted to have the skills needed. However, the initial three artists really wanted to have a second artist for each area so they would have someone to plan with, confer, reflect and present. This proved to be a strength of the program as the audience was new to the artists and so they appreciated having a partner. We chose to have a male and female of different ages for each art form to again strengthen the program and provide another area to assess. Having two artists was good for the artists and good for the participants giving them a greater chance to make a connection with an artist. Also, in the second year we asked each first-year artist to mentor a new teaching artist and so now we have 12 teaching artists with experience as we work to sustain the program. Because the artists were very experienced teaching artists, the training provided was mainly around the grant goals and the development of curriculum that would honor those goals and serve the intended clients.

Barry:  How did you deal with issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, disability issues, dealing with transportation issues of the senior participants etc.

Paramount:  Our main task was to deal with disability issues and transportation. The artists were incredibly creative in dealing with mobility, hearing, vision, some limited memory issues. Once a class roster was established, the liaison at each facility was most helpful in helping artists to be pro-active. A registration sheet also invited participants to share any concerns or limitations they felt might impact their participation. No one was turned away from programming. Holding the classes where the clients lived helped to limit transportation issues. Providing pay for adjacent parking for the Paramount classes was seen as an important provision for those traveling to the clay classes.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what were the major projected costs, and were there any unanticipated expenses? Did you leverage additional funding from other sources? What sources and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

Paramount:  The major costs were in providing two teaching artists for each class. Beyond that, once we realized that participants from facilities were not willing to travel to the Paramount for clay classes, we had to find a way to pay for the added time needed for artists to take the class to them. Preparing the clay and hauling back and forth for drying and firing was less than convenient, but critical to success. Purchasing electronic supplies such as microphones assured that all could hear the teachers and the music needed. Having authentic quality supplies be it music folders, printed music, proper clay supplies were essential to provide an authentic arts experience. One unanticipated expense was providing time for choral staff to arrange pieces to meet the reality of the group assembled. For example, an SATB piece might have to be rearranged to an SAB if there was an imbalance of men and women. Or a piece might need to be simplified and enlarged for a person with vision loss. Additional funding came from the two facilities for year two programming once they saw the value of year one. In addition, we gave the audience opportunity to contribute following the closing performances, but that met with limited success.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved. How did you develop your team to oversee the project? What elements did you include?

Paramount: The time allocated to manage the project was insufficient. Staying in touch with all the teaching-artists, the site managers and meeting the grantors expectations proved valuable, but time consuming. The role of project director was not just that of managing the budget and marketing, but also became the cheerleader who held the project in a cohesive whole, intervened if there were issues, encouraged and empowered artists, problem solved, and dealt with a myriad of details that could not have been predicted. It was a complex and worthy project with many new components for us. The learning provided was incredibly valuable, but did have costs. One very valuable tool that was developed was the weekly log that both the artists and the site manager completed. Because I simply could not attend every session, reading their logs helped me gain a sense of what was happening at each site, and to jump in when I sensed a lack of cohesion in reporting.

Barry:  Did the project involve any collaborative efforts and / or partnerships with other organizations within the community, such as with universities, senior centers, care facilities or otherwise? How did those come about and how did they work?  How critical were those to the success of the project?

Paramount:  The collaboration with Good Shepherd Assisted Living, St Benedict Independent Living and St. Cloud Whitney Senior Center were key to our success. The relationships developed are authentic and I have no doubt will continue as all parties continue work to meet the needs of a growing aging population. They came about via past successful programs and were only fortified. The liaison at each site proved to be essential. They took care of many of the details (pencils ready, taking attendance, recruiting, following up with absences, communicating with artists, etc). Their importance was made clear when a staff change at one site caused a disconnect that proved challenging. We were lucky to have strong site facilitators who were advocates for their residents and for the program.

Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants and did you go outside your constituent base?

Paramount:  The Paramount has a graphic designer who produced recruiting fliers for all sites. The programs were also advertised on Paramount's website and in the newsletters of collaborating sites. Project Director and artists also made site visits prior to each class to encourage and invite participation. Good Shepherd also has a policy of recruiting through the local Community Education program in Sauk Rapids. We also invited family members of those living in facilities who were over 55 to participate in the classes. There were several participants, who, after being in a class at one facility would follow and participate again in another site.

Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project? What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, new audience members, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

Paramount:  Pros are many. The project:
1. helped us expand our pool of experienced teaching artists and to support them over a two-year period
2. helped us to purchase critical supplies that will be important in sustaining programs.
3. gave us the opportunity to produce a professional video to help tell the story in a compelling
way.
4. taught us to develop and use data in effective ways.
5. expanded our programming and our participation base
6. connected us to new funding sources, expertise, and knowledge
7. provided new commitment to the power of the arts by virtue of participant and artist testimony. The joy we witnessed is priceless.

Cons:
1. Moving from grant support can be challenging. Even though people have experienced the value of a program, getting them to pay for what was previously given to them takes creativity!
2. The time required to manage when this is one of many programs offered.

Barry: What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from your organization’s point of view? How did you evaluate the project during its course and post completion?

Paramount:  The evaluation tools provided by Aroha were the basis of our assessment. We relied on the monkey survey tallies to help us tell the story. Informally, we were always watching recruitment and retention numbers, capturing weekly stories of breakthroughs and delights, maintaining artist and site management logs, and taking photos of smiles and product to document participant sense of success. The success was not always in the quality of the dance or the pot or the song, but also on the sense of accomplishment, the smile, the tears of joy, and the surprise of participants’ family members at what their loved one had accomplished. Of course there is always the budgetary bottom line that is crucial to sustainability.

Barry:  When you conceived the project, what obstacles and barriers did you identify, and was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there elements that surprised you?

Paramount: We wanted a ready audience and so pursued working through both the Paramount and established senior communities. One was an independent living facility, one an assisted living and one a community senior center. Again this would give us good data in a variety of settings to help us make decisions about sustaining the program.

Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project? How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering new and additional creative aging projects to the senior community in the future?

Paramount:  Learnings include:
1. While having two artists was critical to the experimental stage, it is not feasible in the sustainability phase.
2. Paying artists a particular fee during the research phase is not possible to continue post grant/ research phase. Helping artists to understand that will be crucial, as will be still paying them a fair wage.
3. While this project helped us connect with those 70 – 95, we are missing out on better serving
those 55 – 70. We need to develop programming at the Paramount or Whitney to assure the entire Age range is being served.
4. Watching the success of other Aroha programs has made us want to expand the offerings to include writing, theatre, sculpture. Watching the other programs was extremely informative.
5. The higher up the corporate ladder one climbs, the more important quantitative data becomes. Seeking funding from a foundation board takes more that touching stories and photos. We are grateful for the quantitative data that Touchstone has provided as we work to get the participating agencies to increas their buy-in.
6. It is critical to simplify processes as much as possible. Having standard documents that can be used at all sites will be important the next round. We did too much individualization that created unnecessary complexity.
7. It was helpful to ask facilities to consider expending marketing as well as programming funding for the program, as they understood that past programming (bingo!) will not suffice for the coming generation of facility residents.

Barry:  Would you recommend that other senior center organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs? What are the major considerations organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs? What are the specific considerations in your experience that senior centers ought to consider in planning a creative aging vitality program?

Paramount:  YES! Gaining access to strong model programs and education from agencies such as Aroha, Touchstone and Lifetime Arts helps to break down the walls of “what is” to imagine “what could be”. But imagining is not enough. Those who buy in will do so because they understand the research and the data that shows quality of life is at stake. Understanding must accompany emotion. If these major players continue to share their expertise at conferences and publications aimed at senior management facilities, it will make it easier for arts organizations to “sell their wares” to them. If the information comes only from the arts organizations it can seem self-serving.

Barry:  What advice would you give those organizations gleaned from your experience?

Paramount: 
1. Poll your residents/members to see what they want, but don’t limit options to what they say. They may fall in love with something they had never considered if it is offered, marketed well and presented by an excellent teaching artist.
2. Market your arts programs in your publications. A rich menu of choices will say a lot about who you are as an organization.
3. Real work for real audiences is really important. Whatever programs you offer, provide a way to
celebrate and show-off their accomplishments.
4. Work with quality artists and pay them fairly. That can be hard to assess on your own so working with an arts organization provides a quality control that is invaluable. Working with a professional adds an element of respect and expectation for those participating – a way of saying “you are worthy of the be and capable of producing.” What a powerful message!
5. There is a difference between an artist and a teaching artist.

Barry: Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to your senior community? Why or why not?

Paramount:  We most certainly intend to take advantage of the incredible momentum built within our artist and our Senior community. It will be important to bring the players together to tune the program, identify what went well, what was confusing and what needs to change and then to craft a plan together. Having all parties feel a part of the planning will be important to any continued success we have. The evidence Is clear, and the Paramount is the agency with the ability and the mission to carry on this work.

Thank you to Solveig Anderson at Paramount for help with this interview.

Have a good week.  And Happy Fourth of July.

Don't Quit
Barry

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Millennials Are No Different Than the Rest of Us.

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on....................."


We have spent a lot of time over the past decade trying to figure out Millennials; trying to understand what they want, what they need; trying to develop strategies to recruit them to our teams, to get them as our audiences, to convert them to being our donors.  We've focused on their devotion to high tech and social network platforms.  We've adapted programming and marketing to target them, and we've adopted new ways to present and exhibit art.  We've bought into the idea that because of their life experiences with tech, and their alleged penchant for doing things differently than previous generations, they are somehow different in fundamental ways than we are.  We subscribe to the notion that they simply want to access art in different ways than generations of the past.  We appreciate that their politics are different from ours.

But is all that true?

In the halcyon days of the Boomers back in the 60's, my generation thought we would, in the words of a Don Henley song, "change the world with words like love and peace".  In Berkeley and Boston, New York and Los Angeles, we thought our entire generation thought the same; because we shared the same musical tastes, we were of the same mind.  That turned out NOT to be true.  The fact is that we were not a homogeneous group that shared the same politics, nor did we even share the same life experiences.  Our preferences and tastes were all over the map - molded by a plethora of influences ranging from socio-economic status, education, religion, where we grew up and a lot more. And as we grew older, like generations before us, we grew more conservative.

The Millennials are likely no different.  Yes, they grew up with the technological revolution of computers and smart phones.  Yes they seem to love selfies.  Yes they have been impacted by the Great Recession, and those that are college educated carry heavy student loan debts.  Yes they they may be more likely to still live at home in their 20's, and yes they may have more trouble finding their job niches.  But fundamentally different from us in their politics, their tastes, their way of approaching life?  I'm not so sure.

In an article in Pacific Standard, a new report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, suggests Millennials aren't so different from previous generations, at least in part:

"Millennials, according to the cliché, are both woke and broke. Woke in the sense that, having grown up in an increasingly multicultural society, they're less racist and sexist than previous generations; broke in that, having entered the workforce during the Great Recession, they have yet to catch up to the economic achievements of their parents.
The report which analyzes data from a variety of sources, largely debunks both of those notions.
Today's young adults are just as likely to endorse traditional racial and gender stereotypes as members of previous generations. And by age 30, those who have earned college degrees enjoy incomes comparable to those of their predecessors."

The report's authors note:

"By age 30," unemployment declines among Millennials, and reaches levels comparable to those prevailing in generations that preceded them." 

To the extent we have internalized the idea that Millennials don't have sufficient income to become our audiences, our patrons, our donors - that's apparently not true.  They don't all live at home, they're not all without jobs, struggling to get by.

And, I wonder how many other assumptions we have made about them are also without justification.  I wonder if they really all necessarily prefer to access art through some tech medium as opposed to the traditional live performances and museum visits.  I wonder if they will likely, as did we, grow into being more interested in the arts as they mature, gain leisure time, disposable income, and settle down.

The article notes that:

"Finally, the report debunks widespread fears that Millennials are abandoning face-to-face interactions in favor of phones and computers.
"Millennials spend as much time with relatives or friends, and hanging out at bars, as 20- to 35-year-olds have been doing since at least the 1970s," write sociologists Mario Small and Maleah Fekete. "More than 47 percent socialized with relatives at least several times a week. More than 30 percent did so with friends."

I think its very likely that Millennials are far more like their parents - like us - than we supposed.  I think our efforts to dramatically change how we approach providing access to what we do may have been overreaching; that, in fact, they will be as likely to support the arts, and in the same ways, as we have been.  That's not to say that we don't still have a challenge in attracting them, much as we still have a challenge in attracting the Boomers and Xers.  But the challenge may not be to devise some wholesale way to fundamentally change how we present art.

Millennials are very likely, in my opinion, as they age, to become, as generations  before them,  more conservative.  They aren't likely to stay some course of fundamental rebellion that will herald a new order of things.  As in another Don Henley song line:  "Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all."

Of course, Millennials have grown up with different experiences than did we.  Of course, their world is different, but their world is still our world as we continue to grow in it too.  I think we may be wasting some time trying to identify some magic new pathways to doing what we do; believing somehow that that is necessary to relate to a generation as so foreign and different from us that they might as well be from another planet.  In large part, they are us - just younger.  Do you remember when you were their age?

So how do we approach marketing to them?  What strategies do we adopt to include them as part of our sustainable future?

In an article in Ladders,  Amazon's Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying:

"The true secret to business success is to focus on the things that won’t change, not the things that will.  For Amazon’s e-commerce business, for instance, he knows that in the next decade people will still want low prices, fast shipping, and a large selection."

What won't change for us?  People, including all the generations, will still want exceptional artistic experiences, they will still want reasonable pricing; they will still want convenience; they will still want opportunities for enjoyable social outings, they will still seek fun as part of their social lives.  We are told they want "authenticate" experiences.  Well, we all want authentic experiences.   That's exactly what all our customers want.  To provide those things is already challenging, and we struggle to meet those needs.  And that won't change.  But to believe that the Millennials want art via some tech delivery system - perhaps even ones not yet developed - is a risky conclusion, largely unsupported by reality.

Perhaps Bezos is right and we ought to focus on delivering what we do in ways that satisfy those basic demands that won't change. That is not to suggest that we ignore societal changes, nor that we fail to reasonably consider and employ every new device that might help us.  And I'm not saying Millennials are exactly like us in every respect.  But I am saying they are not all alike either, and that they are far more like us, than different from us.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit
Barry










Thursday, June 13, 2019

Teachers and Writers Collaborative Interview

Good morning,
"And the beat goes on.................."

Note:  This is the fifth in a series of interviews with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors.  The final two interviews to post in a couple of weeks.  


Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T&W) seeks to educate the imagination by offering innovative creative writing programs for students and teachers, and by providing a variety of publications and resources to support learning through the literary arts. T&W programs include writing workshops for students, professional development for educators, managing the NYS Poetry Out Loud competition, and publishing Teachers & Writers Magazine and other resources about the teaching of creative writing.


Interview:

Barry:  Your organization has previously offered creative writing programs for seniors, and you've had experience with appealing to, and focusing on, seniors.  Was the project an expansion of your previous efforts in this arena, or more of a refinement of what you had been offering?

T&W:  Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T&W) has offered arts programming for seniors at various periods over our five-decade history, but this had not been a sustained focus for our work since the 1990s. In 2016, we initiated a partnership with VISIONS: Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired to offer a poetry writing and recitation workshop for senior center clients as an outgrowth of our management of the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for high school students in New York State.

Our Aroha-funded work at VISIONS gave us the chance to build on the success of our 2016 workshop and to refine our approach by offering more sessions in each workshop, expanding art forms (e.g., adding musical components), having multiple teaching artists in each workshop, etc. The basic approach to the workshops has not changed from our programs for students of all ages, which utilize artistic models to help participants learn about different literary genres/art forms and inspire them to create their own work.

Barry:   Your project encompassed workshops in songwriting, playwriting, poetry, musical theater, and memoir. Each program was led by poet, playwright, and teaching artist.  Can you elaborate on those component parts?

T&W:  T&W’s five workshops at VISIONS included multi-disciplinary programs focused on songwriting and musical theater. Dave Johnson, our lead teaching artist at VISIONS, is a poet and playwright and he collaborated with Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Allison Moore on the songwriting workshop, and with experienced musician and teaching artist Scott Lilley for the musical theater program. These teaching artist partnerships enabled us to offer programs designed by working artists in different, but related, art forms. They collaborated to create the curriculum for the programs that involved music. Johnson took the lead in helping participants to write lyrics, and Moore/Lilley then supported the seniors in creating melodies for their songs.

In addition to these teaching artists, teaching assistants worked with Johnson on all of the programs. These assistants included graduate students from The New School and New York University writing programs, along with individuals trained to support arts programs by Johnson as part of his work as poet-in-residence for the NYC Department of Probation. The involvement of these assistants was essential to the success of our VISIONS programming, since they offered support ranging from taking dictation from individuals who were not able to write during the workshop sessions to contributing their ideas to collaborative writing assignments.

Barry:  As you had previous experience in these kinds of offerings, you had time to consider the potential obstacles and barriers.  Was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there still elements that surprised you?

T&W:  Because we already had some experience at VISIONS, there were not huge surprises in program implementation. We did gain a better understanding of how we could best overcome challenges for people with visual impairments; e.g., recording the discussion and providing the recording on a flash drive at the end of each session so participants had something to take home as a reminder of ideas they wanted to incorporate in their writing between sessions. We also found that having additional “teaching assistants” work in each session (e.g., to take dictation from participants) paid off not only in increasing the amount of work produced during each session, but also in enriching the conversations with added perspectives.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what were the major projected costs, and were there any unanticipated expenses?  Did you leverage additional funding from other sources?  What sources and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

T&W:  Our primary costs at VISIONS were payments to teaching artists. We secured additional funds from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Brewer and the New York State Council on the Arts have awarded funding that is allowing us to continue to work at VISIONS beyond the end of Aroha’s funding. We have received additional support for our post-Aroha work with seniors from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The challenge we have faced in securing funds is the limited number of institutional funders focused on creative aging, but the funders we have identified thus far have been generous in their support.

Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants and did you go outside your usual constituent base?

T&W:  We were fortunate that VISIONS staff handled all program marketing, which made it very easy for us. We did provide language for fliers that were distributed to senior center clients, and one or more teaching artists made presentations about upcoming workshops at monthly “Senior Speak Out” sessions.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved.  How did you develop your team to oversee the project?  What elements did you include?

T&W:  T&W manages arts programs all the time, so we had a good sense of the time that would be involved in the Aroha-funded programs. Teaching artists who work with us as independent contractors did most of the work for each workshop, including attending a planning meeting with VISIONS and T&W staff, developing the curriculum for each workshop series and the individual sessions, leading sessions and rehearsals for final events, preparing anthologies for printing and publication on Teachers & Writers Magazine, and acting as MC at the program celebrations. In the workshops that involved two teaching artists, they spent a few hours meeting to develop curriculum together. Prep time for the individual two-hour sessions took 30 minutes to an hour (e.g., to identify model texts for use in the workshop). Editing and designing each anthology took about half a day.

Staff took part in the planning meeting for each program, did at least one observation during implementation, proofed anthologies and prepared them for the printer and the magazine, raised funds, and handled financial matters. In addition staff identified a recording engineer who attended all the workshops, rehearsals, and final events to create audio recordings; and a videographer to create a video from most of the final events. We also reached out to colleagues at other organizations to identify a musician/teaching artist to work in the musical theater workshop.

T&W has partnerships with The New School and New York University through which graduate students in creative writing programs serve as T&W education associates and work alongside experience teaching artists in a variety of classroom settings.  Several education associates were teaching assistants for VISIONS workshops. We also drew on Johnson’s work with the NYC Department of Probation through which he has trained a number of individuals as teaching assistants. Two of the people Dave has trained worked with us at VISIONS.

Barry:  Your said your project augmented the teaching artist with graduate students from The New School and New York University who work as T&W education associates, and with individuals your teaching artists has trained to work with him via the NYC Department of Probation.  How was the addition of those other support people critical to the success of the program?

T&W:  The additional support from teaching assistants was critical to the success of our work at VISIONS. Most sessions included a mix of discussion, sharing of work, and writing. Although some VISIONS clients have enough vision to be able to write on paper or a computer, others wrote by dictating to a teaching assistant. They also supported the program by serving as escorts to help participants get around at VISIONS, to get to their post-workshop transportation, and to attend the Broadway production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Teaching assistants typed work written by participants who were not able to type their own pieces and contributed their insights and ideas to discussions during workshops. One of the 2016–2017 education associates, Allison Moorer, is a Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter. Moorer worked with Johnson on the songwriting workshop during spring 2017. Her involvement was a treat for participants who continue to follow her career now that she has completed the MFA.

Barry:  Did the project involve any collaborative efforts and / or partnerships with other organizations within the community, such as with senior centers, care facilities or otherwise?  How did those come about and how did they work?  How critical were those to the success of the project?

T&W:  All of our work in the Aroha-funded program was carried out in partnership with VISIONS: Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We have worked at VISIONS since the late 2000s, and initially offered after-school performance poetry workshops for teens. In early 2016, we provided a poetry program for clients at VISIONS’ senior center. The success of that initiative led to our interest in reviving T&W’s commitment to creative aging and to our application to Aroha Philanthropies.

We could not have asked for better partners than the staff at VISIONS. They have offered us good advice on how to work effectively with the population they serve, taken on significant responsibility for program implementation (e.g., handling all marketing), and been open to our ideas. For example, when we asked about the possibility of having teaching assistants trained through the Department of Probation, VISIONS staff agreed right away and were welcoming to these young people who are in the justice system.

Barry:  Besides your experience providing services for the visually impaired and the blind, how did you deal with other senior issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, dealing with transportation issues of the senior participants etc?

T&W:  Although English is a second language for some of the seniors we work with at VISIONS, all of them are fluent in English. When they wanted to write a poem or song in Spanish, they were free to do so.

VISIONS is the only senior center in New York City at which all services are adapted for people with visual impairments. As a result, senior center clients come from all five boroughs. This resulted in a very diverse group of program participants with individuals of different races, ethnicities, national origins, and economic status.

Many of the senior center clients live at VISIONS, which is located in a public housing building. T&W program participants who don’t live at VISIONS got to workshops in a variety of ways, ranging from taxis to Access-a-Ride, the city’s free transportation serve for low-income seniors. (A majority of VISIONS clients self-identify as low income and/or Medicaid eligible.)

Our major transportation challenge was helping seniors get to the Broadway theater at which the group attended Beautiful as part of the musical theater workshop. In addition to T&W staff and teaching assistants working the program, we recruited volunteers to help with transportation. Everyone met at VISIONS and took taxis to the theater. The trip to the performance went very smoothly with everyone arriving in time to get into the theater and seated before other patrons arrived. The return trip was more challenging, since we had to find taxis or try to arrange app-car pick-ups during a rush hour rainstorm in Midtown Manhattan. Everyone returned to VISIONS safely, and all the seniors said that the time and effort involved in getting back to VISIONS hadn’t marred their enjoyment of the afternoon.

Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project?  What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

T&W:  There were no real cons for T&W, and far too many pros to list! One major benefit was realizing that we have the organizational capacity to offer creative aging programs based on many of the same strategies that we use in our work with children and teens. We also learned how many of our teaching artists had experience with creative aging and how many are interested in working with seniors.

One concrete benefit of the Aroha-funded work is that it helped us to reconnect with Elders Share the Arts (ESTA), a 40-year-old creative aging organization that was originally established as an outgrowth of a T&W project called Artists & Elders. In early 2018, T&W and ESTA collaborated on a poetry and visual arts program at the SAGE-GRIOT Innovative Senior Center in Brooklyn. Due in part to the success of that partnership, ESTA, which was preparing to cease operations in summer 2018, asked T&W to take over management of senior and intergenerational programs it had initiated. We took on those programs without hesitation, and might not have done so if we hadn’t had such a positive experience with our Aroha-funded work at VISIONS.

Barry:  What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from your organization’s point of view?  How did you evaluate the project during its course and post completion?

T&W:  We did not establish specific criteria to evaluate the VISIONS programs before they began, but indicators of success over the last two years have included:


  • People signing up for multiple workshops. About two-thirds of participants in the workshops took part in at least one previous program.
  • Attracting new people to the program. Although there were many repeat participants, new folks took part in each workshop series. This mix of new and continuing participants enabled us to create a community of artists that was always invigorated by new voices and ideas.
  • The ease of recruitment. Fliers were created for each workshop and upcoming programs were announced at VISIONS’ regular senior speak-out sessions and at classes held at the senior center. In four out of the five workshops, the number of people who signed up to take part was more than the maximum number of participants we had set. Knowing that some individuals wouldn’t be able to take part in every session (because of health issues or other reasons), we didn’t turn anyone away.
  • The quality of the writing and performances seen in the program anthologies and at the final events.The feedback we received from VISIONS staff, who told us they heard only positive comments about the workshops from their clients, and that they observed participants sharing their work and rehearsing for events throughout the week between workshop sessions.


Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project?  How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering new and additional creative aging projects to the senior community in the future?

T&W:  Because T&W provides arts programs for people of all ages, the primary lessons for us from the work at VISIONS relate to effective strategies for working with people who have vision impairments. Some of those lessons are transferable to providing programs for people with other disabilities. For example, the artists and assistants who worked at VISIONS are all much more adept at helping people who have mobility challenges of various kinds to move safely through a challenging space, whether it’s a New York City sidewalk during rush hour or a senior center undergoing renovations, as VISIONS has been for several years. Our decision to record workshops so that participants could take home a record of each day’s session on a thumb drive is a strategy that would be helpful in workshops that include people who have difficulty hearing in a group setting, but who could hear the discussion while listening to a recording in their own home.

Barry:  Would you recommend that other organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs?  What are the major considerations organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs?  What are the specific considerations in your experience that writing organizations ought to consider in planning a creative aging vitality program?

T&W:  Creative aging isn’t right for every organization, but it has been an exciting direction for T&W. Things to consider in exploring the possibility include:


  • Whether the organization has any history of working with seniors and what the results of those earlier efforts were.
  • Whether there are systems/infrastructure in place to support creative aging work or if those would have to be created from scratch.
  • Whether there is an organizational commitment sufficient to fund programs for a few years in order to get some proven results to take to outside funders in order to generate revenue to support creative aging initiatives.
  • Writing can be a particularly good art form for creative aging work, since it’s something that anyone can do with relatively few resources; i.e. you don’t need a big space or a lot of supplies to create a poem. Older adults have a lot of stories to tell, and writing memoirs, poems, plays, or songs is a great vehicle to tell and share those stories.


Barry:  What advice would you give those organizations gleaned from your experience?

T&W:  Find a senior center or other partner that is as invested in your creative aging work as you are. That is one of the major keys to success. Having a strong relationship with a center allows both partners in the program to maximize what they do well (e.g., getting recruitment messages to clients of the senior center vs. designing an arts program) and know that the rest of the work is in good hands.

Barry:  Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to your senior community?  Why or why not?

T&W:  As noted above, T&W has taken over management of programs initiated by ESTA, and we are also continuing our partnership with VISIONS where we are currently offering a “Text &Touch” workshop on poetry and tactile collage.


Thanks to Amy Swauger at Teachers &Writer's Collaborative

Have a good weekend.

Don't Quit
Barry










Sunday, June 9, 2019

Minneapolis Institute of Art Interview

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..............."

Note:  This is the fourth in a series of interviews with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors.  A fifth to follow later in the week.  



MIA describes itself as:  "Inspiring wonder through the power of art. The Minneapolis Institute of Art enriches the community by collecting, preserving, and making accessible outstanding works of art from the world’s diverse cultures."

Project Description:

Funds from Aroha Philanthropies enabled Mia to present three workshop seriesto engage older adults in art-making activities that provide opportunities for critical thinking, creative expression,personal enrichment, and fostering social connectedness.

This year's series focused on personal portraits. Participants discovered the varied ways that artists have painted portraits over time by looking at examples in Mia's collection of various styles of
portraiture, from figurative to abstract. Guided by a teaching artist, participants then worked within a community of practice to gain fundamental techniques of painting and advance their skills through a sequential model of learning. Each class builds on the next, as participants became comfortable with the medium of painting, learned how to draw facial features, discovered how to capture a personal likeness and sense of personality, and gained proficiency in creating dynamic compositions.
Throughout the series, classmates were encouraged to share their work and reflections on their process, culminating in an exhibition of student work in the museum's Community Commons gallery and an opening reception. Mia's workshop series enables the museum to enhance and build upon past learnings to design and build a program that serves a broader audience of adults throughimpactful arts experiences. Teaching artists work closely with museum staff and community partners to engage and involve participants.

This program serves Mia's vital older adult audiences: 29 percent of the museum's visitors are ages 56 and older, with 16 percent of that demographic over age 65. In addition, in very meaningful ways, this program is advancing the museum's strategic goals for Fueling Curiosity, Engaging Communities, and Deepening Relationships, as outlined in "Mia 2021," the museum's strategic plan.

Interview:

Barry:  What made you want to pursue a vitality arts program specifically for seniors? While a large portion of your audience are seniors, had you had previous experience with crafting programs specifically designed to focus on, and appeal to, seniors?

MIA:  Mia has a strong and long-standing tradition of engaging older audiences through collections, special exhibitions, and programming. The demographics of Mia’s visitors reflect the museum’s continued service to older audiences (see above statistics). The museum’s Board of Trustees and
leadership are committed to continuing programs serving this vital audience. Mia is deeply committed to providing quality, engaging artistic and educational programming serving older adults, and has strong community relationships with partners such as Centro Tyrone Guzman, a deeply committed corps of docents and guides, the Friends of the Institute, and others that strengthen the museum’s programming serving this audience. The museum continues to build on its learnings from the Vitality Arts grant and play a more prominent role as a visual arts organization in the creative aging space. Mia recently reorganized its Multi-Generational Learning department to provide dedicated ongoing staff time to support this initiative. Engaging Communities, and Fueling Curiosity.

Mia’s global collection offers unique opportunities for inspiration and learning, and Aroha’s VitalityArts programs advance all three of the museum’s strategic plan goals: Deepening Relationships,

Barry:  Your project focused on personal portraits. What was the thinking in focusing on thatspecific art form?

MIA:  Portraiture can be used both as a tool for skill-building in painting and for individual self-reflection and group sharing around the subject and composition choices. We also see a bridge between portraiture and Mia’s ongoing work around empathy and the museum’s Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts (CEVA).

Mia’s substantial global collection provides tremendous opportunities for participants working in portraiture. In the programs proposed for Year 2 Vitality Arts, participants will discover the varied ways that artists have used their medium over time by looking at examples in Mia’s collection of various styles of portraiture.

In Mia’s Year 1 Vitality Arts program, several participants in the Centro Tyrone Guzman program indicated that they were interested in learning how to paint people and faces, so proposing a portraiture program for Year 2 is in direct response to these participants’ requests. In addition, Miaalso will offer Portraiture to participants at Wilder Foundation, who also indicated they wanted tocontinue developing their painting skills through this project.

Barry:  How did you deal with issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, disability issues, dealing with transportation issues of the senior participants etc.?

MIA:  Fortunately, because of experience and existing partnerships with community organizations, Mia has practices in place to address and support some of these challenges. For example, Mia and Centro Tyrone Guzman have been partnering on programs for several years, so there was a familiarity with how to structure and approach this bilingual class. Additionally, understanding that the participants at Wilder would have a range of mobility issues, Mia reached out to Sara Tucker, a teaching artist who has lead Mia’s “Discover Your Story” program for adults with Alzheimer’s, and who is skilled at creating accessibility accommodations.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what were the major projected costs, and were there any unanticipated expenses? Did you leverage additional funding from other sources? What sources and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

MIA:  For Mia’s 2018 Vitality Arts programming (Year 1), artists’ fees comprised the majority of costs: $5,250 of a total project expenses of $13,965.60. Other direct costs, including museum staff salaries directly related to the program, accounted for $4,590 in project costs. Aroha was remarkably thorough in urging grantees to think through all potential costs, so there were no major surprises, apart from staff time (please see response below). For the few unanticipated things that did come up, additional funding from Mia’s operating budget was used to cover program costs not met by the Aroha Philanthropies grant. For example, from previous experience working with Centro, Mia staff understood that food and hospitality are essential to any programming with this audience, so funds from the museum’s operating budget were used to supply refreshments for the class.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved? How did you
develop your team to oversee the project? What staff roles did you include?

MIA:  In its original proposal, Mia underestimated the time museum staff would need to plan and implement the project, and executing the programs required more time than had been anticipated.Activities related to supporting the teaching artists’ requirements, planning and prep, also were greater than projected. Additional assistance also was needed from the museum’s Learning Innovations team, costs for which were not planned in the original budget.

Mia adjusted these projected costs in its Year 2 proposal to more accurately reflect the amount of time needed from museum staff, teaching artists, a teaching assistant, and program support to realize these programs. In addition, the museum’s Multi-generational Learning Innovations team was aligned to improve efficiencies and service to Mia’s programming serving older adults. Museum staff roles related to the project include: Head of Multi-Generational Learning; Manager of Lectures & Academic Programs; Manager, Audience Research & Impact; Photographer; and Videographer.

Barry:  How did you go about recruiting the teaching artists involved in the program, or were they already affiliated with the organization? What was involved in their training and involvement that you didn’t anticipate at the outset? Were there benefits to the teaching artists involvement that came as a bonus? or otherwise? How did those come about and how did they work? How critical were those"

MIA:  The three teaching artists were already associated with previous museum programs. While they were all accustomed to creating lesson plans, they were surprised by the level of curriculum planning and front-end work required by Aroha, so one of our teaching artists stepped down midway through the grant cycle due to capacity. Mia then quickly identified and contracted another teaching artist in the museum’s network.

Barry:  Did the project involve any collaborative efforts and / or partnerships with other organizations within the community, such as with universities, senior centers, care facilities the success of the project?

MIA:  Mia partnered with Centro Tyrone Guzman for Year 1 Vitality Arts programming. Mia has longstanding collaborations with this community partner through a variety of museum programming. This relationship, built over years of experience and trust, was critical to the success of the project. Mia also partnered with Wilder, an organization the museum had been looking for a way to connect with, so the Vitality Arts program offered a perfect opportunity.

Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants and did you go outside your constituent / audience base?

MIA:  Participants for classes at Centro and Wilder were recruited from their existing programming for older adults. At Wilder, through their day care centers, and at Centro, through their Wise Elder program. Both classes quickly filled. At Mia, the class was first listed in our general programs email and did not initially fill. Marketing staff then created a targeted email to audiences who attended and indicated interest in similar programming in the past. After that, within two or three days, the class filled. Mia knows there is an audience for these programs, and this confirmed to staff that some customized communication may be needed as we begin to build awareness of these offerings at the museum.

Barry:  Your program was designed: “to engage older adults in art-making activities that provide opportunities for critical thinking, creative expression, personal enrichment, and fostering social connectedness.” What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from your organization’s point of view? How did you evaluate the project during its course, and post completion?

MIA:  During the programs, teaching artists used time at the beginning and end of each class to check-in with participants, gauge their response to the class thus far, and plan for any alterations needed to the curriculum. At the close of each series, Mia program staff used the survey provided by Lifetime Arts to evaluate the program’s success. The Mia class was also followed by a discussion between participants and an evaluator from Lifetime Arts to explore some of the impacts, and Mia staff held post-program discussions with each of the teaching artists to gather their perspective.

Barry:  When you conceived the project, what obstacles and barriers did you identify, and was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there elements that surprised you?

MIA:  In order to maximize participation and access to the class, Mia program staff chose to offer the classes to participants 60 and up. However, staff recognized that this could create the possibility of a very wide range of ages and abilities within one class—the differences between a 60-year-old and an 80-year-old, for example, could be considerable. So, Mia staff worked in advance with its teaching artists to ensure that each class could accommodate the diverse needs of its participants. In the end, the class at Centro demonstrated the unique opportunity of having, essentially, an intergenerational class when it emerged that there was a 30-year age difference between the youngest and oldest participants. The oldest participant, at 94 years old, was one of the most skilled artists in the class, and her participation challenged the assumptions about aging for many of her fellow participants.

Additionally, from the recruitment aspect, while Mia serves a broad audience of older adults through a variety of programs, we learned that marketing of our Vitality Arts programs in our general programs email, for example, was perhaps overlooked as the class did not initially fill. Mia’s marketing team then created a targeted email to audiences who attended and indicated interest in similar programming in the past. After that, within two or three days, the class filled. This confirmed to Mia staff that there is, indeed, an audience for these programs, but some customized communication may be needed as begin to build awareness of these specific offerings at the museum.

Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project? How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering new and additional creative aging projects to the senior community in the future?

MIA:  Mia programming staff witnessed the deep impact that these programs have on this audience, and also learned a valuable lesson in how to best resource these programs. The museum continues to build on its learnings from the Vitality Arts grant and wants to play a more prominent role as a visual arts organization in the creative aging space. Therefore, the museum has recently reorganized its Multi-Generational Learning department to provide dedicated ongoing staff time to support creative
aging initiatives. Mia is grateful for renewed support from Aroha Philanthropies for Year 2 of the SVA Minnesota programming to serve this audience at the museum and continues to explore
opportunities for expanding its “creative aging” programming.

Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project? What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, new audience members, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

MIA: There were no cons that Mia staff could identify; however, the benefits were many. In addition to the impact on the participants, the conversations around aging had an impact on Mia staff, as well. One of the unexpected outcomes was how these programs revealed the subtle and not-so-subtle ways
that ageism plays out in our society, and how interrelated this work is with the museum’s ongoing equity and inclusion efforts, as well as its focus on empathy.

Barry:  Would you recommend that other organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs? What are the major considerations organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs?

MIA:  Yes, absolutely. These programs offer a unique opportunity to connect with, and positively impact, older adult audience members. As with the start of any new program, organization staff will want to honestly consider their capacity—both staffing and financially—to support, maintain, and sustain the program. Additionally, Aroha required grant applicants to issue a needs assessment survey, exploring interest in the class, potential topics, convenient class days/times. The information gleaned from this initial survey was very helpful as we developed the offerings.

Barry:  What advice would you give those organizations gleaned from your experience?

MIA:  Assign additional staff support to help initially get the programs off the ground. If you are working with a community organization, it may be helpful to start with one where you have an existing relationship. Piloting a new program with a new partner may be challenging.

Barry:  Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to your senior community? Why or why not?

MIA:  Yes, absolutely. There is tremendous interest from older adult audiences in quality, engaging programming. With news of renewed funding from Aroha Philanthropies to support Year 2 of SVA Minnesota programming at Mia, the museum is looking forward to continued work serving older audiences through this initiative and others at Mia.


Participant Observations:

Participant Profile:

I am a married 76 years old retired customer service/instrumentation engineer at aerospace manufacturer,  living in Minnesota.  I spend my free time taking courses at the U and am also a gallery guide at Mia.

Asked why he decided to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program? he replied: "I like continued learning, particularly art history and studio art-based classes. I often take classes."

When asked to Rate and Review involvement in the project, whether it meet - or exceed - expectations? and about the benefits or negatives  of participation? he responded:

"As I mentioned, I have taken years of classes at the University, and Peyton is by far the best instructor I have ever had. He broke down the painting process in a very straight-forward, 
understandable way. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the medium of spray paint and learning about the history of the genre. I came in really cynical, but this was like a world-class master class--a mix between institutional expertise and street smarts. I also really enjoyed creating art collaboratively with my fellow classmates. The fact that we did all of this un such a compressed amount of time, it was like a dream. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity."

In response to the question of whether or not he planned tocontinue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?  he answered:

"I think that I would." 

As to whether or not participation in the program increased his involvement with the sponsoring organizations, he noted:

"I am already a volunteer guide at the museum but would definitely take more classes like this here in  a heartbeat. "

What advice can you give to the sponsoring organization to make the program better?

"Go for it. You’ll be glad you did."

Thanks to Aubrey Mozer and Darcy Berus at MIA, and the participant's thoughts.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit
Barry

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Richard Florida Looks at the Brain Drain Impact

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on................"

According to an analysis by Richard Florida, of a new report by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, there is a brain drain of the most educated and smartest people, moving from parts of the country to other parts of the country, and it has been going on for decades, resulting in "a widening geographic divide between the winners and losers of the knowledge economy."

"The report uses U.S. Census data from 1940 to 2017, and focuses on highly educated people in their post-college and post-graduate-school years—people between the ages of 31 and 40 who are either “movers” or “leavers,” heading off to different states, or “stayers” who continue to live in their home state." 

Movement within America, according to Florida, is "a tale of two migrations: the skilled and educated “mobile” on the one hand and the less educated “stuck” on the other.  

"Gross brain drain is the simple difference between the share of leavers and share of stayers in a state (excluding people who move there). The biggest losers, as you might expect, span the Rust Belt, adjacent parts of the Great Plains, the South, and especially the Deep South, as well as Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire in New England. The winners are on the East and West Coasts, but they also include Texas and Colorado, as well as (perhaps more surprisingly) Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and Kansas."
Bringing it all together, the best performers over the past three-quarters of a century are the states along the Boston–New York–D.C. corridor; on the West Coast; and Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii. States fared the worst, experiencing more brain drain, in parts of the Midwest, the Great Plains, New England, the Southeast, and especially the Deep South.  The geographic winners have only seen their advantages grow since 1970."

So what does this mean for us - for the nonprofit arts and the creative communities?  Clearly, this brain drain is largely posited in terms of a high tech and entrepreneurial frame.  But certainly such movement has implications for our sector in terms of:

  • The best and the brightest moving to certain places will make it harder to recruit, retain and benefit from that class of leadership for those areas where the "drain" is in play.  It will also make competition for perhaps scarce positions harder in the areas where the "gain' is more pronounced.  
  • A consequence of that movement may likely make it easier to raise funds in certain "gain" areas, and harder to raise funds and stay afloat in the "drain" areas, as the economies and the donor class of the former areas grow and thrive, and the latter areas contact and struggle.  
  • And that may mean that: 1. access to arts education continues to be much more prevalent in some areas than others; 2.  the audiences for performances and exhibitions may shrink in the have not areas; 3. donor support may shrink in those same areas, as wealth moves from the "drain" areas to the "gain" areas; and, 4. arts organizations in the thriving areas may fare better economically, and thus offer better wages and benefits, perhaps further compounding the problem and encourage even more of a drain on the have nots.  
As Florida concluded:

"This split geography of brain gain and brain drain poses huge implications not only for our economy, but also for American society and politics. Brain drain has significant consequences—economic, yes, but also political and cultural,” the report notes. “By increasing social segregation, it limits opportunities for disparate groups to connect. And by siphoning a source of economic innovation from emptying communities, brain drain can also lead to crumbling institutions of civil society. As those natives who have more resources leave, those left behind may struggle."

The same may be true for the arts.  Or not.

The is not completely dissimilar from Florida's Creative Class theory which took our sector by storm years ago.  Of course, our previous experience with Florida's theses has led us to a healthy skepticism as these kinds of "general" theories are qualified by a host of conditions and influences not necessarily readily apparent on the surface - and so we ought not to rush to hard conclusions too easily.   And, we must acknowledge that it is a bit of a conceit, somewhat arrogant and arguably insulting to cast those who do not qualify under this kind of thinking as the best and the brightest as the remainers.  To suggest that only college educated, entrepreneurial people are the "brains" we all want is myopic and short sighted - if not in many cases simply wrong.

Still, as the country continues to diversify and change on profound levels, at a heretofore unheard of pace, population shifts will become more the reality, including movement of the educated, entrepreneurial and creative cohorts as those groups are generally defined.  While this kind of movement is not likely to be wholesale nor will it be universal - it may well be substantial, and it may well occur rapidly. We can't really know presently how this trend will manifest itself, or what this trend will mean for us.  But we can recognize its potential, and consider its implications and ramifications now, so that if and when the trend does result in challenges, we will be better able and prepared to address them.  It may be a boom for some, and doom for others.

Have  great week.

Don't Quit
Barry







Thursday, May 23, 2019

Interview with TU Dance

Good morning
"And the beat goes on................"

Note: This is the third in a series of interviews with Aroha Philanthropies Vitality Arts grantees delving into their launch, management and continuation of creative aging programs for seniors - this one a beautiful marriage of dance and writing.  

TU Dance: Founded in 2004 by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands in Saint Paul, Minnesota, TU Dance is a leading voice for contemporary dance. The 10-member, professional company is acclaimed for its diverse and versatile artists, performing work that draws together modern dance, classical ballet, African-based and urban vernacular movements.  The TU Dance repertory features original work by Uri Sands, as well as renowned choreographers including Dwight Rhoden, Ron K. Brown, Kyle Abraham, Gioconda Barbuto, Katrin Hall, Gregory Dolbashian and Camille A. Brown. Through celebrated performances of the professional company and accessible dance education at TU Dance Center, TU Dance provides opportunities for everyone to experience the connective power of dance.

Project Description:

Our current project was working with Dancer/Poet Mary Moore Easter and dance/movement instructor Thern Anderson to present the workshop "Dancing Your Story" with Adults 55+.  Our partner organization was Episcopal Homes (A senior living complex down the street from us) who we did the first two workshops with onsite before moving the third workshop to our center.

Here is a sample of the class description and bios of the instructors:
Join Thern Anderson & Mary Easter in a workshop that combines dance and writing. Movement will be explored in concert with writing exercises to create a history or explore some aspect of your life, be it real or imagined.
Students will expand their range of motion through practicing set choreography and creating movement phrases, gaining knowledge of how the human body moves with the understanding that each body holds its own unique history. Students will hone their observation and listening skills to support fellow artists.

Thern Anderson is a dance educator with a wealth of experience teaching children, adults, professional dancers and community groups. Thern brings somatic movement principles and improvisational skills to her teaching of modern dance techniques. In teaching dance to beginning adults, her philosophy is that anyone can dance and find pleasure in movement. Classes include the study of body and spatial awareness, rhythm and phrasing, ensemble dancing, and injury prevention. Students learn through modern dance phrases as well as improvisational structures.

Mary Moore Easter’s first poetry collection, The Body of the World, is forthcoming from MadHat Press in 2018. The manuscript is also a finalist for the Prairie Schooner Bok Prize in 2017. A Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and Cave Canem Fellow, Easter is published in POETRY, The New York Times, Seattle Review, Water Stone, Calyx, Pluck!, Persimmon Tree, Fjord’s Review, The Little Patuxent Review and the 2015 anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Law- rence and an M.A. from Goddard. Born in Petersburg, Virginia to parents on the faculty of then-segregated Virginia State College, she was as immersed in their artistic and intellectual interests as she was in limitations segregation imposed on her black world. She re-rooted as faculty at Minnesota’s Carleton College where she was founder and director of the Dance Program.


Interview:

Barry:  What made you want to pursue a vitality arts program for seniors?  Had you had previous experience with crafting programs specifically designed to appeal to seniors?

TU Dance:  This is our first time offering programs that were explicitly for adults 55+.  We offer adult modern and ballet classes and had received some feedback from some of the older participants that they would love a class geared towards them which made this opportunity with Aroha and Lifetime Arts a great match.

Barry:  Your project focused on elements within the dance discipline.  Can you elaborate?

TU Dance:  Our project highlighted the expertise of our two teaching artists and focused on joining their art mediums of dance and writing to give participants multiple ways to share their stories.  Thern  and Mary began each workshop session in a circle format. Participants created a warm-up based on their name on the first day that eventually became a phrase they danced together as a greeting to each other at the beginning of each class.  Participants explored the movement potential in their bodies by doing improv exercises and dancing set choreography that intersected with their writing assignments.  Through the 8-week workshop, dance phrases and short stories took shape in the forms of solos and trios.  All classes were accompanied by live piano.

Barry:  When you conceived the project, what obstacles and barriers did you identify, and was the reality of designing, then implementing, the project pretty much as expected, or were there elements that surprised you?

TU Dance:  One reason we decided to collaborate with Episcopal Homes was because we weren’t sure we would have a decent number of attendees initially. Both TU Dance and Episcopal Homes were excited about this opportunity and initially didn’t identify any immediate barriers.  However, we did offer the class at no cost to participants to eliminate any economic barriers present. We definitely had a learning curve in regards to how drastically the curriculum and structure would need to change for each population. We realized that the 8-week format, enrollment ideals and culminating event didn’t suit the needs of our seniors with challenging health conditions who needed more support from nurses and aids during the second workshop. We had a great experience, but greatly shifted the program to meet their needs. Afterwards we realized that  we had already worked with everyone at our partner site who was interested, and had been hearing from the general public that the class taking place at an assisted living center was discouraging to some who were not at that stage of their life.  We shifted gears and decided to move the 3rd workshop to TU Dance Center to serve a different population and had a wonderful turn out!

Barry:  Who did you target as participants in the project?  Was recruiting senior participants easy or difficult?  How did you deal with issues such as non-native speaker participants, diversity recruitment, dealing with transportation issues of the senior participants etc.

TU Dance:  Initially we targeted the residents of Episcopal Homes, a large senior living complex, along with those who were in our mailing and social media circle.  Recruiting for the same workshop at a partner site multiple times was difficult but we adjusted as I mentioned above.  We did not run into any non-native speakers and struggled with diversity issues.  Providing programming to people with a diverse cultural background is  very important to our organization’s mission yet this has been challenging with this age demographic.  We have realized that statistically, assisted living homes tend to be overwhelmingly middle class, white women.  Transportation issues with the partner site didn’t apply as most were residents and they could provide their shuttle for the final culminating event at our center.  Quite a few of our participants used local “metro mobility” services to arrive to class.

Barry:  In creating a budget for the project, what line items were included?  Were there expenses that were unanticipated?  Did you leverage additional funding from other sources?  What sources and how difficult was raising the additional funding?

TU Dance:  The dominant part of the budget included appropriate compensation for both teaching artists and the accompanist.  We did include a small line item for notebooks the participants could use for their writing exercises.  Due to the shifting nature of the curriculum, logistics of changing locations and collaborating with the partner organization and teaching artists, the project coordinator ended up spending more hours on this project than were budgeted.  We anticipate that it will require less time from the coordinator going forward after learning from these experiences. We did not require additional funding beyond that which was originally provided.

Barry:  Did you accurately identify the workload and time involved that management of the project ended up taking, and can you describe that workload and the time involved.  How did you develop your team to oversee the project?  What elements did you include?

TU Dance:  TU Dance’s Education and Outreach Coordinator was the project coordinator. We underestimated the time needed to coordinate all the activities related to this project. The project coordinator was involved --alongside with the teaching artists-- in adapting the curriculum and structure for each population we served. This was necessary in order to understand and learn from the experiences, helping us to adapt the offering in future programming. Furthermore, the project coordinator was in constant communication with Episcopal Homes personnel about marketing and logistics, then sharing relevant information with the teaching artists.  The project coordinator was also in charge of the culminating events which included invitations via social media and printed materials, as well as arranging for the space and introducing the teaching artists and providing the respective grant acknowledgement.

Barry:  What kinds of marketing did you employ in recruiting senior participants?

TU Dance:  Due to the collaborative nature of the first two workshops with Episcopal Homes, we approached recruitment and marketing with them to engage their residents. We posted information about each workshop on TU Dance’s website, created paid advertising through TU Dance’s Facebook page, posted flyers at Episcopal Homes and TU Dance Center along with a few other community locations, and sent email promotions using Constant Contact via TU Dance.

Barry:  The Aroha projects mandated inclusion of teaching artists to conduct the training for the senior participants.  How did you go about recruiting those teaching artists, or were they affiliated with your organization already?  Was there anything involved in their training and involvement for this program, that you didn’t anticipate at the outset?  Were there benefits to the teaching artists involvement that came as a bonus?

TU Dance:  Thern Anderson was already a teacher for our adult classes at The School at TU Dance Center. She has an extensive background teaching movement and dance to a vast variety of populations. She has a gentle approach to dance.  We know Mary Easter through her work in the community both as a dancer and writer, but we had not worked with her directly previously.  Thern and Mary happened to have danced together by chance a few decades earlier and were working on a performance project with a local choreographer last year.  I believe that because both teaching artists happened to also be dancers who were 55+ it helped build rapport with their students. TU Dance is proud to be able to provide both Thern and Mary with opportunities to continue to share with the community their expertise and passion.

Barry:  How did the collaboration with Episcopal Homes work?  How did it come about?   How critical was it to the success of the project?

TU Dance:  Episcopal Homes is a senior living complex less than a mile away from TU Dance Center.  It spans a few blocks and encompasses numerous living options including independent living to long-term nursing care. Due to our close proximity it felt natural to approach them as a partner.  It is also important to us as an organization to offer programming beyond the 4-walls of TU Dance Center in order to stay connected with our community.  Having a supportive partner actively recruiting participants and supporting the project was essential to the success of these workshops!

Barry:  What criteria did you use to determine if the project succeeded from the organization’s point of view?  How did you evaluate the project during its course and post completion?

TU Dance:  We administered surveys as part of the grant to document feedback but most importantly, it was apparent that the project was a success when we saw the confident, expressive dancers and writers present their work at the culminating events.

Barry:  What lessons did you learn from your experience with the project in the provision of services to seniors in the creative aging arena?  How will you apply what you’ve learned to the sustainability of offering new and additional projects to the senior community in the future?

TU Dance:  Location is important and can become inviting or limiting depending on the group of seniors you are targeting.  We are continuing to approach partner organizations for these workshops as well as incorporating it into the programming at TU Dance Center in order to expand the reach of these workshops.

Barry:  What were the overall pros and cons, logistically and otherwise, in designing, creating, and implementing the project?  What benefits were there to the organization - e.g., new volunteers, new support, new audience members, greater community involvement, media coverage, expanded organization image within the community etc.?

TU Dance:  Although cultivating relationships with partner organizations requires a time commitment, and includes more logistical issues, it is well worth the effort if your goal is to offer this program to multiple populations of adults in this age group.  Benefits included greater community involvement and realization of TU Dance’s mission to provide opportunities for everyone to experience the connective power of dance.

Barry:  Would you recommend that other arts organizations consider creating and launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs?  What are the major considerations arts organizations ought to consider before embarking on the launch of their own programs?  What are the specific considerations in your experience that dance organizations ought to consider in planning a creative aging vitality program?

TU Dance:  We would highly recommend other arts organizations consider launching their own creative aging vitality arts programs.  Consider who in this age group you would like to reach and pay special attention to making sure you are not limiting access by how you market or where you hold your workshops.  Finding the right teaching artist(s) is essential for the program to be successful.

Barry:  What advice would you give those organizations gleaned from your experience?

TU Dance:  Meet each group where they are and don’t be afraid to change plans!

Barry:  Do you intend to continue to offer these kinds of program to the senior community?  Why or why not?

TU Dance:  Yes!  We have received funding to continue this programming for the next year and plan to actively search for ways to sustain future workshops.


Participant 1 Observations:

Profile.  Female.  58 Years Old, currently on disability due to a chronic health condition, but still works occasionally part-time.  She previously worked developing community programming around urban farming.  She describes herself as very active, interested in nutrition, organic foods and farming, writing, outdoors, the Boundary Waters in northern MN, and teaching others to be more connected to nature and the food they eat.

In responding to why she decided to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program, she said:
'She was driven to enroll in this workshop to aid her healing from a chronic disease she was diagnosed with  5-6 years ago.  She was originally introduced to some dance elements in a yoga class.  After her yoga teacher recommending dance she attended one of our adult modern classes at TU Dance Center but found it too structured and difficult to participate while taking care of her health needs. She heard of this programming for adults 55+ and thought it might be a better fit.'

She rated the program very highly and said that it exceeded her expectations.  Benefits included sisterhood and profound healing.  “The Beauty of this class was that there was some freedom with how you move.” She believed this was critical for people dealing with chronic pain issues which is common in older adults.  The use of imagination and making connections through writing and movement along with the live music provided a safe space for people to move. She loved watching everyone unleash their inhibitions go into other creative realms and the ability of the teaching artists to coax them into that was highly skillful. Approaching stories from your life and from childhood and growing up and accessing it in ways other than our brains was profound.

Asked if she would continue to pursue the art form learned in the program?
She said: She would consider joining a class with other people like this if it  was fashioned in a similar way--  free to move how your body leads you and not in regimented ways.  Interest is very high but has to be a unique format.  She does not like the 8-week format. She would prefer an ongoing class without the performance aspect of the culminating event.  She disliked the class when the focus shifted to preparing for the culminating event even saying that it ruined it for her. She did not attend the culminating event.

Asked if, as a result of the program, she might become involved with the sponsoring organization in other ways - say as a volunteer, or audience member, or financial supporter or?
She said she had been to 8-10 TU Dance performances in the past and has always loved modern dance.  She will say that because she lives on disability and has low-income that paying for classes is challenging.  She shared a story of how her partner gave her some money for her birthday and she chose to donate $20 to a few organizations she supported, and TU Dance was one of them!  She also made a point to mention that as she ages and due to her experience with chronic health issues, daytime classes are better, as by the time evening comes she is too exhausted to attend a class.

Asked what advice would she give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program, she offered?
“I would say that it would be totally worth giving it a try!”  One of her friends showed up for this workshop and she said that “My people would be interested in this sort of thing.” She wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to people with chronic and disabling chronic illness especially for people who are trying not to re-injure."
______________________________________
Participant 2 Observations:

Profile.  Kelly is a 73 year old former Mental Health professional, now retired, male, interested in
music, exercise, workshops, and being around people.

Asked why he decided to participate in the creative aging vitality arts program?
"I was Intrigued with the title."

Had you participated in any arts program like this before?
"No.  But I love to dance.  I had written poems in the past.  I loved playing with Andrew, the piano player, and I liked Thern and Mary they were very good at encouraging us."

Did it meet - or exceed - your expectations?
"It exceeded my expectations!"

What were the benefits of participation?
"Letting go, getting in touch with being in my body, movement. We had lots of different people. People in wheelchairs, people that were brave, people dealing with difficult situations and we were all dancing."

Were there any negatives to participating?
"No. When they danced I was having an off time so then I just played my harmonica."

Will you continue to pursue the art form that you learned in the program?
He started to recite a poem he wrote in the workshop by memory: “My room is filled with pictures on the wall …….Pictures remind me I’m a part of the all.”

What advice would you give to other people who might be thinking of participating in this kind of program?
"I would say go. Bring your body and practice letting go."


Thanks to Kaitin Kelly Benedict and Abdo Sayegh Rodriguez at TU Dance, and to the participants.

More interviews in the Series in a week or so.

Have a good weekend.

Don't Quit
Barry