Training Launch Day!

Stagebridge class

Even if you weren’t anywhere near Washington, DC this morning, I think you may have heard us cheer when Katie sent out the press release officially announcing the NCCA Online Artist Training in Arts and Aging. We are finally launched!!

At this point, the training feels a little like my “baby,” but it has been two years in the making by a whole team of people at NCCA and the National Endowment for the Arts, along with our task force, our fabulous curriculum consultant, editor, and online developer (Thanks Dee, Mike, and Adam!), our beta testers, and all our contributors. This spring and summer have been a workfest—intense for sure, but definitely a labor of love!

One of my biggest pleasures in putting the training together has been working with the teaching artists featured in the training—more than twenty, in all--who have shared their stories, explained their methods, offered exercises, and been flat-out generous with their time and their expertise as we went back and forth to make sure we got it right. Their dedication to their work and this project has been inspiring.

Some of the highlights of the project for me:

  • Participating in one of Jeannie Brindley-Barnett’s MacPhail Music for Life™ sessions at Lyngblomsten in St. Paul, Minnesota on the day after Valentine’s Day (“There’s No Wrong in This Room,” lesson 8), and then sitting down with her over a hearty Minnesota lunch to chat about creative aging, her work, and how she adapts her sessions for older adults of many different abilities. She is a master!
  • Finding out about teaching artists who are doing wonderful work around the country. For example, Irania Patterson and Edwin Gil in Charlotte, North Carolina, who told me about a delightful series of storytelling and visual arts workshops they led for Spanish-speaking older adults on the theme of “seasons of our lives” (“Quilting Memories,” lesson 10). Participants ended up telling one another personal stories they hadn’t revealed in the six years they had been meeting weekly for lunch.
  • Hearing about “Ed,” an older man who was on the brink of suicide when he reluctantly wheeled himself into the Open Studio established by painter Jeff Nachtigall (“30 Seconds to a New Life,” lesson 4). I won’t spoil the story by giving away the details here. I’ll just say that I was taking notes with one hand and wiping away tears with the other. If you know anyone who is wondering how the arts can truly make a difference in the lives of older adults, Ed’s story will help them understand.
  • Talking with ceramics artist Angie Renee. I haven’t met anyone who has embraced the concepts of creative aging with more enthusiasm. Since attending an arts in aging training offered by Minnesota’s ArtSage, led by Susan Perlstein and a team of master teaching artists, Angie has integrated social engagement and mastery (“Mastery and Social Engagement,” lesson 2) in ways that have transformed her work with older adults, her experience as a teaching artist, and raised more than a $1000 to help feed immigrant staff at their residential community! (“Empty Bowls, Full of Meaning,” lesson 11). When she describes her work, you can hear her glowing over the phone.
  • Finally, this blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the privilege of having a heart-to-heart with Susan Perlstein after a day of training in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Sitting over drinks and dinner, we talked about how the online training was going to expand on her pioneering work, which had been the core of NCCA’s artist trainings. At first, I was a little concerned that she might feel less than honored when she learned that we were featuring the work of artists from all over the U.S. and even Canada in addition to hers. But I didn’t need to worry. She was pleased. She said it was time and that in the last few years the amount of good work happening had snowballed. “Dorothy,” she said, “There’s really a field out there.”

There really is a field indeed. And NCCA is pleased and proud to offer the online training as an educational tool to the field…a gift from us, from our sponsors (a BIG thanks to the NEA, MetLife Foundation, and The Michelson Foundation!), and from all our contributors, including the talented teaching artists who are making creative aging a reality for older adults every day.

Written by Dorothy Wohlslagel


As one of the training partners in MN, ArtSage is DELIGHTED to see this online training launched and will be promoting it to our many teaching artists across the state! Congratulations to you Dorothy, Susan and the NCCA on making this possible. We also congratulate the MN teaching artists who were involved in helping this project come to fruition- Jeanie Brindley-Barnett and Angie Renee. We are so fortunate to have both of these remarkable women leading our second Arts and Aging Professional Development Training for Artists and Arts Organizations funded by the MN State Arts Board. Tammy Hauser, Interim Executive Director, ArtSage. 

Thank you for such kind words, Tammy! We are so thankful for all of your support and are THRILLED about this tool. Thanks for sending it to your contacts as well! 

Hello:I just found this free online training a few days ago and I am now in the midst of completing the lessons. This a tremendous resource and I find each chapter is better than the one before- meaning they are all very, very informative. I am a painter and musician and now seeking a job in the therapeutic recreation field. This training is helping me so much. I am studying and reading each chapter and completing the toolkit. This program is such a gift to me as I apply for jobs. It is current information and so well put together. I am just floored by the examples and stellar programs/facilitators that you have assembled in this program. I find it very inspiring and such a learning experience for me. The Open Studio program among others depicted really stood out and got my attention. I hope I get the opportunity to work in this field and put some of these tools into practice. Thank you so much. I see on this blog that the free online course only became available the end of July. I don't know how I found it surfing online and googling Art programs for the elderly.  I sure am glad I found it.  Interestingly, I noticed that Dee- Boyle Clapp was overseeing the curriculum.  Her name stood out to me as I met her two years ago at her B&B in Mass.

So glad that you have found it so valuable!

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.