Creative Aging Directory - Bihl Haus Arts

Program Title
GO! Arts
Program Summary

The mission of Bihl Haus Arts of San Antonio, Texas—creating community through the arts—is based on the belief that each person, when given a chance, can achieve significant personal, social, and cultural growth through the arts. To support its mission, Bihl Haus Arts:

  • Nurtures and promotes the work of diverse visual and cultural artists in San Antonio;
  • Fosters artistic excellence and promotes intergenerational and multicultural understanding and awareness;
  • Creates community between older adults enrolled in Bihl Haus art classes and area established and emerging artists, members of surrounding neighborhoods, and the global art culture; and
  • Builds collaborations with other cultural and social service organizations to maximize access to collective resources.

The GO! Arts program of Bihl Haus Arts provides professionally taught art classes at two housing communities for older adults, serving 240 participants each year.

Program Background and History

Bihl Haus Arts, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is the only professional nonprofit contemporary art gallery on the premises of an affordable senior housing community in the United States. Its GO! Arts program was launched in 2007 in response to requests from older adults and has been participant-driven from its inception.

Program-Specific Research and Key Findings

In 2008-2009, Dr. K. Jill Fleuriet (University of Texas at San Antonio) and Dr. Adelita G. Cantu, RN (University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio) partnered with Bihl Haus Arts to conduct a program evaluation of Bihl Haus’s professionally taught painting classes in its gallery at Primrose, an apartment complex for independent older adults (55 and over) in the Monticello neighborhood of San Antonio. Over 14 months, the evaluation documented the impact of the class on the personal perceptions of health and wellbeing of participants, as well as how participants conceptualized and incorporated the classes into their daily lives to actualize improved mental or physical health. Study participants included students from the beginner and intermediate classes. Qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews, observation, and participation generated textual data that was then independently coded for themes and subthemes related to art, health, and aging.

Overwhelmingly, participants perceived significant improvements in mental and psychosocial health through increased social engagement, self-awareness, and empowerment through the creative process, as well as an improved sense of calm and relaxation. For Bihl Haus students, art is personal expression set within the reflection and emotional independence that they associate with their aging process. Class aspects that encouraged these improvements were professional instruction; flexibility in instruction and participation; the head docent’s consistent and successful efforts to maintain a positive, accepting environment; and free instructions and materials.

Program-Specific Assessment and Evaluation

Programs are evaluated on an ongoing basis through the use of interviews, focus groups, surveys, press reviews, and attendance numbers. Program evaluations have been conducted by staff, outside evaluators, and related partner agencies.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Listen to participants and respond to their needs. Look for partners.  

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Arts Discipline
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus
Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop
Kinds of Creative Engagement/Program Focus Other
Interdisciplinary Connections
Civic Engagement, Education, Volunteerism
Creative engagement
Target Audience
Active Adults, Intergenerational
Adaptive Program Design
Mobility Disabilities
Adaptive Program Design Other
Program Setting
Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Community Center
Program Service Area / Geography
Program Service Area / Geography Other

San Antonio, Texas