The Artful Life Program--Proposal
The Target Market
In 2000, there were 600 million people aged 60 and over. There will be 1.2 billion by 2025 and 2 billion by 2050. Today, about two thirds of all older people live in the developing world. By 2025 it will be 75%. In the developed world, the very old (age 80+) is the fastest growing population group. Over seven thousand Americans will turn sixty each day in 2006 (about three hundred and thirty an hour). With this in mind, the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, in pursuance of the International Plan of Action on Aging, was adopted by the World Assembly on Aging and endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 37/51 of December 3, 1982. World governments were encouraged to incorporate the following principles into their national programs whenever possible. The principles, in brief, are the assurance of providing their aging populations with (1) Independence (2) Participation (3) Care (4) Self-fulfillment (5) Dignity.
From the New Horizons for Learning is a Seattle-based organization which studies and researches educational improvement initiatives for all ages: From its website comes this statement, “As our population ages, it is interesting to note that many people who would in the past have been considered “old” do not feel or behave in that way. Many continue to take courses at universities, community college, and community centers. Many are becoming conscious of ways to keep mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and young.”
There is, indeed, a growing need to address the well-being of our aging population. The Artful Life can help fulfill this need.
Retirement for this aging population can be either mean resignation, retreat and withdrawal from life, or it can be forward-thinking, up beat or optimistic. It is at this point that many begin to examine their life in a new way, looking back at what they have accomplished and seeing a new future in which they can finally do what they’ve always wanted to do. With the empty nest and retirement at hand, many will be freed from the demands of a work schedule and family, ready to pursue interests and endeavors that have been put off for decades. It is a fact that sixty-eight percent of retirees go back to work, either because they want to or they have to because of money or health insurance needs. The Artful Life Program can provide an educative and satisfying alternative to those wanting to return to the old work schedule. However, for those required to do so, The Artful Life Program can inform, invigorate and strengthen their lives, augmenting their working schedule with creativity and plying the use of the “whole brain.”
Marian Diamond, professor of anatomy and a foremost expert on neuroanatomy, has done extensive research on the effects of the environment on the brain. She says, “The brain is truly a phenomenal structure, and keeping it healthy for our entire existence on this earth is a goal we can and should all aspire to.” (Marian C. Diamond, “Successful Ageing of the Healthy Brain,” article presented at the Conference of the American Society on Aging and The National Council on the Aging, March 10, 2001, New Orleans, LA. First Join Conference). She advocates, five anti-aging factors significant because of recent scientific validation: Diet, Exercise, Challenge, Newness and Human Love.
According to James E. Zull, Professor of Biology and Director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University, the brain physically changes when we learn and the biggest changes are caused by emotion. The chemicals of emotion, such as adrenalin, serotonin and dopamine modify the synapses and this is the very act of learning. Zull states that the arts trigger emotions, changing the brain of both the creator and the consumer of the created object. Practice also changes the synapses, he says. “We learn things we repeat the most. But we repeat the things that we care about. So we enjoy the arts and repeat them over and over. This intensity of effort and focus is healthy for learning. It also changes the brain.” He concludes that creativity, based on decisions made by the creator, release chemicals that make us feel rewarded for our creative efforts. “ Freedom and ownership are part and parcel of the neurochemistry of the arts.”
Another perspective is submitted by Dee Dickinson, in an article for New Horizons in Learning called “Learning Through the Arts.” “We cultivate a lively and honest curiosity for the world. We begin to ask why.” “The development of curiosity and wonder creates a personal and social consciousness that is necessary for living in our culturally diverse world. By setting students on a lifelong journey with the arts, we encourage ongoing, informed perception, appreciation and relationship with the people of the world.”
In an article, “Optimizing Memory in the Adult Brain for Effectiveness in a Multitasking Society,” Donalee Marcus writes, “ Why then are the “baby boomers” (age 40+)–who are still actively engaged at work and in their communities, who recognize the value of good nutrition and healthy lifestyle–crowding into classrooms to learn how to remember strings of numbers and never forget a face or name? More than simple vanity and the refusal to grow old, these high-functioning, high-energy participants recognize the demands that our multitasking society of instant messages and global networks makes on them. Their refusal to be left behind and “put out to pasture” had lead to additional studies on the effectiveness of training the adult brain to function better and remember more clearly.” Marcus concludes that, “Mental training that employs visualization is crucial in developing the agility to use the information we remember in productive ways. Because the modern world demands more of us, we should not settle for less that the optimal use of our brains.”
Regarding the benefits of reflection, Charles D. Hayes, a lifelong learning advocate, author and publisher, writes, “We should expunge the word retirement from common parlance and replace it with R and R: reflection and reflexivity. Imagine what a different perspective advanced years would bring to society if, instead of saying we were looking forward to retirement, we said we were eager to begin our years of reflection eager to sort the truth of our experience from society’s fictions. Reflexivity is a turning back into one’s experience to retake bearing and re-examine one’s coordinates. If the autumn years begin at 50, real education begins in September.”
Planned for retirement communities and seniors in the Savannah, GA area, The Artful Life, can, having progressed successfully as a business and an educational service for a year or two, expand and franchise its programs to fill the needs of retirees, seniors and assisted living individuals nation wide. The Program is designed to be adopted to a variety of sites, locations, and the needs of a broad range of participants yet remain an invigorating, inspiring and satisfying experience in the lives of many.
At present, there is no service that offers this creative package in any retirement communities, assisted living facilities or community colleges. Although art classes are offered, The Artful Life presents a much broader range of educative initiatives, including large motor movement and breathing exercises at the beginning of each class session, group projects involving movement through drawing and painting with music, lectures on creative thinking and problem solving, visits to artists studios, learning the skills of critique, visits to museums and galleries and lectures on historical and contemporary art. The goal of The Artful Life Program is that through learning and experiencing the full scope of the artful life, students will enhance their physical, mental and spiritual capacities. And this leads to a healthier spirit and a longer life.
The Artful Life Program will have a website that links to several other sites like New Horizons for Learning, Lifelong Learning sites, sites on retirement communities, seniors, aging, the boomer generation and lifestyles. The Program will be advertised in AARP magazine, as well as Savannah newspapers. As the Program progresses, networking with magazines, newspapers and local media will expand coverage. A large portion of the success of the Program will initially depend on word of mouth as well, expanding knowledge of the Program within the community.
Research grants could help finance the Artful Life Program. The National Endowment of the Arts is already financing research on the cultural benefits to an aging population. A NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) sponsored study called, “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults.” began in 2001 and is to be repeated every two years. It proves that compared to a Control Group, and Intervention Group that participated in cultural programs had significantly better overall health, less falls and hip damage, fewer doctor’s visits, diminished use of medications, diminished visual problem and increased involvement in activities. Other areas of financial support will be investigated, including support options through state and local governments, not-for -profit grants, entrepreneurial loans and setting The Artful Life Program up under the auspices of a supportive foundation or corporation.
The more support though the above venues, the less participants in the Program will need to pay. Fees and cost of courses in The Artful Life Program for individual participants will be gauged on a median income demographic. A reduction in these fees and costs would be precipitated by financial support. Enough profit must be made in order to slowly and steadily expand and enhance the Program However, students must be able to afford this service. If the cost of the Program is prohibitive, it would conflict with the mission statement of seeking to be available to the very widest range of participants.
The Artful Life Program can be conducted on site in the facilities of a retirement community, churches, public or private schools, colleges, universities, YWCA’s or YMCA’s. The Program would be retrofitted for the specific location.
Ideally, the Artful Life Program will be modeled on a specific site. The studio will be comprised of a separate ceramic area with kilns, potter’s wheels, shelves and work tables. The main studio will consist of work tables, easels, shelves and lockable storage spaces, drawing tables and chairs. This area will be used for printmaking, painting, drawing and design projects. Another open area with comfortable chairs set apart from the work spaces will be for discussion, critique, lectures and media presentations (films, videos, performances,etc.). Good lighting and ventilation is critical. This space will double as an exhibition area for the work of students. There will be an exterior walled garden area, easily accessible and landscaped with a garden, trees, pool and benches. This area will be used for exercise, lunch and dinner parties, meditation, drawing, sketching and painting and receptions for group exhibits.
As with any public service, adequate insurance that protects both the students, teachers, facility and Program itself is necessary. The insurance should cover the specific Program facility as well as off-site course locations.
Are you interested in creating an Artful Life Facility in your community? Have you created a similar program? Contact me, I welcome your comments, suggestions and information!
...I currently I'm working with a author for children's books and I'm doing some of the illustration. This has been a real challenge, but enjoying it. When I not at home my sketch pad goes with me and I'm practice on something all the time. I've taken my art more serious and have the time to do what I thought I would never be able to do and you have inspired me to make me realize a dream that I thought I wouldn't get to do in my life time. Will be sending a picture for you to look at and see where I need to do to improve. It may take a week or two, but you will hear from me. Janice
I'm 60 and just getting back into art. My mother was an artist and I always wanted to be one too. I like the (acrylic) painting and I'm just finishing up the Intermediate! Never though I could paint so good! Eleanor Fuller
Please send link to basic drawing lessons--enjoyed your blot painting! Thank you, Phyllis
Hello Lois....In your introductory e-mail you asked about who I am. I'm retired. As I watched my triplet grandchildren drawing and creating fine looking artwork, I got to thinking about how much I had enjoyed drawing when I was about their age. My recollection is that I was pretty good but in truth probably not as good as my aging memory recalls. I do know, though, that I enjoyed it very much. So one day I sat down with paper and pencil to sketch a masterpiece only to find that all the talent I had as a teenager had been lost somewhere on my journey to senior citizenship. The desire, if not the ability, was there so I began searching the net for drawing lessons. I was surprised to find sites that actually provided free lessons. (I fully expected to pay for lessons) I was most impressed with your site so here I am....hoping to reawaken a long suppressed interest in the art of drawing.
It's never to late to do art! I've been painting with water color and then did some little cards for my twelve year old niece.
Thank you for your art lessons,
Notes on Writing The Artist Within Lessons...
Five years ago, for a small business course at a community college I developed a financial plan for "The Artful Life Program," a series of art learning classes for 55+ students.
This offering of art classes could be installed in a community recreation center, a church basement, an instructor's house, or wherever people wanting to learn and do art could congregate.
I had to do the financials, figure out what would be needed to teach in a facility and project an income and expense sheet for its operation.
I came a way from the small business class with a good working plan for bringing art to the 55+ community. One of the classes I called "Finding The Artist Within." Based on my experience with teaching older people, the course was constructed to refresh, inspire and develop creative skills through a series of exercises. I made each project simple, fun and provocative and directed towards an end goal of helping the students choose an artful direction in painting, drawing, printmaking, or collage.
Through six lessons, students could develop their imaginative, visualizing and creative skills will working on projects that were fun for the group and not intimidating.
Over the years, I have taught "Finding The Artist Within," in in private classes as well as life-long learning programs. It remains today, one of the most popular class offerings I have!