Creative for Life

Organization Associated with Program
ArtStream Inc.
620 Pershing Drive
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

In collaboration with the Therapeutic Recreation department of the Specialty Hospital of Washington (SHW) and the Capitol Hill Nursing Center in Washington, D.C., trained and experienced ArtStream artists offer culturally relevant, sequential, and hands-on Creative for Life arts sessions that connect or reconnect nursing center residents to the neighborhood and its history (and to their personal histories) through innovative, multi-sensory approaches. The sessions utilize varied arts disciplines including music, drama, seated dance/movement, visual arts, and reminiscence work to bring about attainment of Creative for Life objectives for participants. SHW’s Therapeutic Recreation staff recruit and gather nursing center participants (and return them to their residences afterward), participate in and/or assist with arts sessions, and assess social engagement and specific health outcomes. Each program includes appropriate access accommodations for participants, the majority (if not all) of whom have diverse disabilities.

The program's primary target population is long-time residents of Washington, D.C. and in particular the culturally vibrant neighborhoods surrounding SHW (with its cultural treasures such as national museums and the iconic Howard Theatre, which launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others). Despite their proximity to such cultural assets, SHW nursing center residents are often isolated from their personal and regional history. Creative for Life provides an opportunity for them to reconnect with their history and community through stimulating arts learning sessions that incorporate exploration of regional cultural assets.

There is one session per month at present, with each session running about one hour. Each session includes a hands-on activity. Depending on the class, participants can expect to take part in listening experiences, some seated dance movement, improvisational drama experiences, or the viewing of a film.

Program History

ArtStream is a regional organization based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area that provides specialized arts opportunities to people who often lack access to the benefits of artistic involvement. ArtStream's Creative for Life arts sessions began upon invitation from SHW's Director of Therapeutic Recreation, Hope Rushing. Ms. Rushing enlisted ArtStream's expertise, confident that ArtStream artists had the ability to provide high-quality arts learning experiences that could engage and fully accommodate SHW nursing center residents with diverse disabilities while linking them to exciting regional resources. The Creative for Life program was launched in May 2010.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

This program has four principal objectives: 1) to expand arts learning; 2) to increase social engagement; 3) to strengthen connections to the broader neighborhood (and, in so doing, to regional and personal history); and 4) to improve overall health. Programs are evaluated on an ongoing basis through the use of individual assessments, attendance records, artist reports, and observation. The evaluations are used to make adjustments and design new programming. ArtStream artists assess attainment of arts learning, social engagement, and community and personal history connections; SHW Therapeutic Recreation staff also assesses social engagement and specific health outcomes.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Ensure accessibility to arts learning experiences by providing multi-sensory points of entry, appropriate adaptations, and access to services and accommodations (e.g. audio description and tactile materials for participants who are blind or have limited vision), as well as links to the community and to participants' personal histories.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Viewing Artwork, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Dance, Literature, Media Arts, Museums, Music, Theater, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: History
Target Audience: Frail Older Adults
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Healthcare - Long Term Care
Program Service Area: Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice