Creative Aging Program

Organization Associated with Program
Mesa Arts Center
One East Main Street
Mesa, Arizona 85211

The Creative Aging Program of the Mesa Arts Center seeks to promote individual creative expression by older adults using artist-in-residence programs in adult resource centers, adult day centers, and adult living communities in the Mesa, Arizona area. Program activities explore important issues through movement, story, dance, and engagement in art-making as a tool for self-expression. Participants are asked to draw on their life stories while creating art, with the goal of physically and mentally engaging older adults in creative activities that enhance self-esteem, morale, and overall health. Additional workshops and programs are provided to the caregivers and staff of the facilities, to make possible the continuation of the arts engagement process at the conclusion of the artist-in-residence program.

During visual arts programming, participants use a variety of media to create works. In dance classes participants identify their body’s range of motion and explore balance, coordination, motor skills, movement quality, memory sequencing, and breathing. Both activities are led by professional teaching artists.

There are ongoing opportunities to showcase the work created to the general public. Participants in visual arts classes can exhibit their work at the Mesa Arts Center’s Mesa Contemporary Arts Classroom. Those in dance classes participate in a public performance for the community. The exhibition and performance are not only beneficial for participants’ families and friends, but they also allow all program participants to meet and network with one another.

Program History

The Creative Aging Program was launched in 2011 within the Mesa Arts Center’s Arts Education Outreach department, as part of a direct effort to reach an underserved audience in the surrounding community. The program is now core to the mission of the Mesa Arts Center and is fully funded and staffed by the center. The program also led to three strong community partnerships with area centers for older adults, all of which have asked the center to continue programming in the following year. The Creative Aging Program was featured by PBS in a mini-documentary.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Evaluations are conducted by staff of the Mesa Arts Center. The participating teaching artists complete self-evaluations, and participants complete pre- and post-evaluations of each program. Teaching artists meet with the staff of the Mesa Arts Center and of partnering sites before, during, and after the program to review the evaluations.

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, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Dance, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education, Health / Medicine
Target Audience: Active Adults, Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Cognitive Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Psychiatric Disabilities
Program Setting: Adult Day Care, Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Assisted Living, Community Center, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Promising Practices