Creative Aging Directory - John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Program Title
Kohler Arts Center SPARK! Program
Program Summary

The SPARK! program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center of Sheboygan, Wisconsin offers positive social and creative experiences for people who are living with neurocognitive disorders resulting in memory loss and their caregivers–experiences that are not dependent on memory skills that are fading or impaired. The Kohler Arts Center’s highly trained education staff and volunteers lead programs that emphasize the joy and creativity that can be found in the present moment, drawing on the strengths of the individuals irrespective of their diagnosis.

Programs are designed to serve older individuals living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other neurocognitive disorders. They are available to groups coming from care organizations such as assisted-living facilities, long-term care facilities, and adult day centers. Programs can be adapted to the needs of other types of older groups.

The Kohler Art Center utilizes visual art, signing, dance, cooking, and other creative activities in their arts programming for people living with memory loss. Discussion of works of art is conversation-based, encouraging interaction and a positive and fluid exchange of ideas and observations. Programs do not rely on short-term memory or recall of information about art history. Art-making sessions encourage experimentation and playfulness and are often collaborative. All programs offer a variety of sensory experiences.

Program Background and History

SPARK! was developed to help shift the focus from the deficiencies often associated with memory loss to the rich and satisfying experiences that are possible. The program has allowed the Kohler Art Center to create new partnerships with other museums, community organizations, and the Alzheimer’s Association. The Kohler Art Center is also a member of the SPARK! Alliance, a group of ten cultural organizations across Wisconsin (with one in Minnesota) that are committed to offering quality arts and cultural programming for people living with memory loss.

Program-Specific Research and Key Findings
Program-Specific Assessment and Evaluation

SPARK! evaluates the effectiveness of its program by tracking participant re-enrollment, holding focus groups, collecting stories and testimonials, and conducting surveys. Evaluations are collected on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of the program by staff members. 

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Connect with organizations in your community that work with older adults while your program is in the planning stages. Approach art-making with a focus on the process and not the final product. Be open to collaborative projects—the Kohler Art Center has had much success using this approach. 

City (Main)
State (Main)
Phone-Phone (Main)
Facebook Link
Twitter Link
Arts Discipline
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus
Creation of Original Work, Viewing Artwork, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in a Residency, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus Other
Interdisciplinary Connections
Civic Engagement, Education
Creative engagement
Target Audience
Caregivers - Family, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design
Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Adaptive Program Design Other
Program Setting
Arts Organization
Program Service Area / Geography
Rural, Suburban, Urban
Program Service Area / Geography Other

Eastern Wisconsin