AFTA Makes Front Page News

The Beacon, a monthly paper for people over the age of 50 in the Greater Washington area, has just published this profile of Arts for the Aging titled “Art and music erase limitations” in its October issue.

The article’s author Barbara Ruben visited a workshop with AFTA Teaching Artist Anthony Hyatt at The Kensington Club @ Parklawn while researching the story.  We had a delightful time!


Did you read The Beacon’s article on AFTA?  What did you think?

Successful Aging with You (SAY) Visits from Japan

At AFTA we are pleased to meet like-minded individuals and organizations. It extra- special to find we are simpatico with artists from another part of the world.  Three ballet dancers from Japan visited the Washington, D.C. area this summer to promote their organization Successful Aging with You (SAY). SAY assists seniors in aging gracefully with a classical ballet approach. In their words, they “accompany those in their 50s, 60s and 70s on a journey of continuous elegance and interest in the things that are meaningful to them.”


SAY shared their Ageless Ballet program with residents of Village at Rockville, an AFTA partner center. Our staff was there alongside Katie Fitzgerald, Director of Communication at the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). The hour-long workshop included a performance by ballerinas Kan’no Yoko and Tomoko Tanaka, followed by a seated ballet session for all.

Dance combinations were taught that gently stretched and warmed muscles and allowed the expression of different moods through gesture. Arms gracefully arched and pulsed overhead as they moved to music from Swan Lake.


Takako Taniwaki, a D.C. area resident, managed the group’s trip to the U.S. and assisted with translation. She said that SAY’s seated ballet program leads to straighter backs, improved core strength, stronger muscles, and smoother motor nerve coordination between the brain and limbs.

We wanted SAY to experience an AFTA workshop as well. So they joined AFTA’s Quicksilver senior dance company and Teaching Artist Anthony Hyatt for a dance and music program at Iona Adult Day Health, Wellness and Arts Center. SAY was drawn in by the lively program.


They were excited to see others presenting arts engagement workshops to older adults for health and life enrichment. They will take their experiences in the United States back to Japan, where they are promoting the importance of the arts in the lives of seniors.


The best part? SAY has plans to return to the U.S. later this fall. We look forward to dancing together again.

Learn more about SAY in this video from their Youtube channel:

Shine Together with Kensington Park

The greater Washington, D.C. area may have experienced one of the coldest winters on record, but Mother Nature has rewarded our tenacity with a beautiful spring. In fact, the Washington Post is boasting a ten week streak of (nearly) rain free weekends. Our Shine Together program at Kensington Park Senior Living could not have a more fitting backdrop. For the past six weeks, members of Kensington Park’s Independent and Assisted Living communities joined in celebrating a mutual love of the arts. The series culminates in a Summer Garden Party on Saturday, June 14, 2014. The best part? You’re invited – more information below.


AFTA Teaching Artist Donna McKee’s program Looking Out Loudengaged seniors in the Independent Living community in an exploration of visual art intersecting with performing arts. They also assisted in setting an artistic scene for residents in the Assisted Living community, who put together a musical performance Kensington Kabaret with AFTA Teaching Artist Peter Burroughs.


Artists in Looking Out Loud let go of inhibitions and let music guide them as they created abstract shapes and mandalas. At the first session ofLooking Out Loud, participants expressed uncertainty about successfully completing an art project.  Donna encouraged them to let go of their expectations and simply move a piece of charcoal across the paper to Mozart’s Overture from Don Giovanni. At the end of the session, participant Skip commented, ‘There was no feeling of stress.  This is my kind of day!'”

Images from the art sessions, along with specially crafted streamers, will enhance the performance by members of the Kensington Kabaret.


Meanwhile, Teaching Artist Peter Burroughs and residents in the Assisted Living Community are kicking up their heels and singing musical theater numbers for the Kensington Kabaret performance on June 14. Group discussions centered on cabaret shows and the artwork of Henri de Toulousse-Lautrec. In fact, you may recognize Toulousse-Lautrec’s iconic “can-can” painting when the seniors perform their own version of “Can-Can”, complete with lyrics of their own creation:

We CAN do almost anything

Like dance and sing! WE CAN!

CAN smile and laugh and eat

Our veggies from a CAN!

WE CAN share our art and talent

With our artist friends from down the road

Oh yes WE CAN

After doing the can-can, participant Mary remarked that she had a stroke not long ago, and for a while it was difficult to do anything. “But now,” Mary says, “I’m doing the can-can!”.


Join us if you can-can!

Shine Together Garden Party

Premiere performance of Kensington Kabaret, art exhibitions, refreshments and more.

  June 14, 2014

4:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Location:  Kensington Park Senior Living

 3620 Littledale Road

        Kensington, MD 20895

Free and open to all ages

Weaving Our Stories

Our summer intergenerational program “Weaving Our Stories” was a gratifying experience for all involved.  Teaching Artists Marcie Wolf-Hubbard (art) and Candace Wolf (storytelling) led four sessions with older adults and children aged 7-15 at Holly Hall Apartments, a new center partner, in Silver Spring, MD.  The program is a partnership with Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County.  Holly Hall provides subsidized housing for older adults, and the youth will were bused in from a nearby family facility, where they are part of a group called Magruder’s Discovery.


At the beginning of each session, the participants spent time getting to know one another.  Discussion topics included things that are worth waiting for; the history behind their names; what they like best about their current age; what courage means; times of change and how they coped; and the special, most unforgettable days in their lives.  The time spent sharing personal stories flowed into art activities designed to continue the “getting to know you” process.  Younger and older participants created colorful nametags for one another, illustrated stories from the other’s life, created collages made from images of group members, and drew portraits of a partner.  The series culminated with a final celebration on Wednesday,  July 31, where their artwork was displayed for public viewing.


Members of the group expressed their feelings about the experience:

“I liked interacting with the kids. Some children don’t have grandparents and it is good for them.”

Sarah, Senior participant

“It’s important to take time for yourself and learn something new.  To not think about your health issues, or sit alone in your apartment”

Phyllis, Senior participant

“I liked that they were multicultural like us, and spoke different languages.”

Rufael, Youth participant

“I liked telling our stories, and drawing our partner’s stories”

Bizet, Youth participant

The youth, who continue take part in an after-school program in their neighborhood during the school year, have already planned several return trips to visit their friends at Holly Hall.  We hope the relationship will continue for a long time.

Please enjoy the following video, which we hope conveys the spirit of the sessions.