NASAA Notes: March 2021

March 3, 2021

Investing in Creative Aging with State Arts Agencies

As you may know by now, NASAA just had the honor of announcing creative aging grant awards for state and jurisdictional arts agencies (SAAs). Through the Leveraging State Investments in Creative Aging (LSICA) program, an initiative fueled by our joint venture with Aroha Philanthropies, we are excited to award 36 grants valued at $1,457,000 to advance state arts agencies’ creative aging efforts.

We offer our gratitude to our good partners at Aroha Philanthropies. Founder and President Ellen Michelson, Executive Director Teresa Bonner and their team have funded this important work through Aroha’s Vitality Arts program. Their program is designed to advance lifelong learning in the arts and promote wellness through the arts for older adults across the country.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to state arts agencies: you have been at NASAA’s side as we have explored and learned about the creative aging field. You connected and responded as we researched state practices in creative aging. You helped us understand your needs and aspirations for serving America’s older adult populations and for responding to the demand for this programming within your states. Your participation in this journey has well-grounded our actions.

I’m honored to congratulate those state and jurisdictional arts agencies that will receive creative aging grants from NASAA. They include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Marianas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Beyond the LSICA program, which promotes lifelong learning in the arts to promote wellness, many state arts agencies are serving older populations by managing and/or supporting work that employs medical models and art therapy for the purpose of health interventions. State arts agencies’ involvement in the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is just one example of this. Whether your SAA is involved in the LSICA program, supporting art therapy or interested in learning more about the creative aging field to inform future programs, NASAA will organize creative aging professional development opportunities for your involvement. Please stay tuned for program announcements about that opportunity.

The NASAA team continues to learn a great deal about creative aging as we move this new program forward. We are gaining clarity about equity challenges related to aging and ageism in America. Bias and ageism are significant forces that affect how older Americans are viewed and treated, and there is much work happening in the field of aging that can inform our strategies.

For example, to combat ageism, the American Society on Aging frames its work around five strategic priorities—that happen to include the arts. It seeks actionable change in ageism and culture, economic security, innovation and social impact, health and well-being, and equity and justice, both individually and as these issues intersect for older Americans. Many of us realize that older Americans face serious inequities in economic security and health and wellness, but the inequities exist across society, and the arts and cultural industries are no exception. For the American Society on Aging, exploring cross-cultural views on aging; portrayals of aging at the individual, community and national levels; reframing how we talk about aging and older people; shifting representations of aging in media; and promoting representation in the arts are top priorities.

With respect to our field, community arts education efforts too often fail to include older adults in intentional, sequential arts learning opportunities. Support for creative aging is not widespread across our field, as arts institutions most often develop learning opportunities for younger populations.

In 2017, the National Guild for Community Arts Education surveyed its member organizations and discovered that only 8% of students were 65 years or older; less than 30% of its members reported having any engagement with older adults. In response, the Guild then joined forces with Aroha Philanthropies on a multiyear, cross-sector partnership to build the capacity of community arts education organizations to launch creative aging programs. New data shows a shift toward creative aging programming, as 41% of the Guild’s members now offer these programs.

NASAA’s Leveraging State Investments in Creative Aging program aims to assist state arts agencies as you work toward a necessary and important paradigm shift. State arts agencies within this program are building and strengthening the infrastructure to advance creative aging within states. Some SAAs are providing professional development to prepare artists for work in creative aging, while others are developing projects and experimenting with an eye toward creating excitement and interest in lifelong learning through the arts across communities.

As state arts agencies work to build a more inclusive and equitable world for people of all ages, the LSICA program allows NASAA the opportunity to help SAAs address inequity experienced by older adults. As we do this work, it is important to remember the intersectional inequities that exist as well. For example, women, especially women of color, face significant barriers to economic security as they age. According to a report from the American Society on Aging, women represent nearly two-thirds of the people over age 65 living in poverty. Older women also experience barriers in educational opportunities, employment prospects, housing and more, increasing their risks for economic insecurity and poverty.

As we continue this creative aging journey with members, your NASAA team remains heartened by the meaningful work happening at state arts agencies. We’re also excited to organize a formal learning community for state arts agency work in this field. One of the most substantial benefits of belonging to any association is the opportunity to learn with and from colleagues. I predict our creative aging learning community will demonstrate the power of association, as the lessons we’ll learn together will fuel state arts agency creative aging practices now and in the future.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA

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