Quicksilver Performs “Water Spirit” for the 2021 Global Water Dances Initiative

 

 

Arts for the Aging is proud to sponsor Quicksilver, an improvisational dance company for seniors, who recently performed "Water Spirit" as part of the 2021 Global Water Dances initiative.  Choreographed by Quicksilver director Nancy Havlik with an original score from music director Adam Gonzalez, the dance was shot on the Anacostia River at Kingman and Heritage Islands in Washington, D.C. The performance features eight dancers over the age of 65 interpreting water's varied forms, and supports the Anacostia Watershed Society's work to clean up the river. You can learn more about Quicksilver here.


How to reach seniors without access to technology


Arts for the Aging Teaching Artist Deborah Riley interacting over Zoom with participants from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Senior Program in the District’s Ward 8 during her Joy of Movement workshop.

Last time I wrote about our successes with providing multi-disciplinary arts workshops to seniors via Zoom. This time, I want to tell you about our efforts to connect with seniors who do not have access to reliable internet and technology. These older adults are most likely to be the most social isolated during this pandemic. They can no longer attend the adult day programs, visit senior centers, or gather in the common areas of their buildings. Many do not have a computer or a cell phone with an unlimited data plan – things many of us take for granted and are a lifeline for connection. 

So, what can we do? Arts for the Aging visual art workshops are a core component of our programming. It was a natural idea to have our extremely talented teaching artists create an at-home version of those workshops. We could write clear instructions for what to do and provide all the art-making materials in one easy package. Voila! An instant art experience that will provide inspiration and distraction. 

When I started as Program Director in May, teaching artist Marcie Wolf-Hubbard already had a kit in production. The plan was to provide twenty kits for seniors in a local assisted living home. I quickly jumped in to help with administrative support and branding. I named them heART Kits – a fun play on words I’m still amused by. Marcie put everything together, delivered them to the client partner and then… nothing. No feedback, no comments, no artwork to admire and talk about, just the same silence that the seniors isolated in their rooms were experiencing. 

What now? Staff don’t have time to get feedback from the participants, they are focused on keeping everyone safe and healthy. Because of privacy regulations, I don’t have direct contact with our participants. I must pass communication through the client partners’ staff. I had many discussions with those contacts about how Arts for the Aging can best support their members and how can we re-establish that connection between teaching artist and participant. 

The obvious answer is the telephone. Most of the older adults who received a heART Kit have only a landline. But, remember those privacy issues? We can’t have their phone numbers or call them directly.  Then my brainwave happened. I noticed that for some workshops with one client partner, half the participants were never on video. They were calling in from a phone and listening to the program. They couldn’t see it, but they were still enjoying the interaction. We could do that for people who receive a heART Kit! Everything is still in the pilot phase, but we have had our first two hybrid telephonic Zoom workshops and we had way more than silence – we had singing, laughter, and love. 

Enjoy this poem with accompanying signs and gestures created in our latest hybrid workshop!

A Poem and Dance by participants in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Senior Program in Ward 8 with Arts for the Aging Teaching Artist Deborah Riley

I am 

I am strong (arms out making fists)
I am wise (fingertips touching the temples)
I am victorious (arms in front of the body with elbows with fingers up toward the ceiling)
I am complex (arms swaying and waving in front of the body)
I am so proud of my power (jumping in the air like a champion)
I am beautiful (smile, hands around my face, shake my head)
I am resilient (sign for continuing, thumbs together and fists pushing forward)


New Socially-Distanced Programs to Encourage Creative Aging in Quarantine

During 2020, our Year in Music, Arts for the Aging has been undergoing a transformation along with the region and the world. Our response to the need for programmatic and organizational change continues to evolve, as we uplift health and wellness in aging through regular participation in the multidisciplinary arts — despite physical and social distancing. We have been implementing various distanced programs to keep creative aging alive. Below we outline the programs we have tested out.

 

coOPERAtion

ROMEZ3arts debuted Arts for the Aging’s first pandemic-resilient program in an interactive opera workshop using Zoom. Singing actor Peter Joshua Burroughs and maestro Carlos Cesar Rodriguez on piano engaged caregivers and older adults with memory loss. They chose famous arias from opera librettos to which most can hum or sing along and masterfully sparked singing, call and response, role-playing, and tactile cognitive stimulation.

“[ROMEZ3arts was] always a favorite of my late husband, and though he passed 2 ½ weeks ago, it really was like being with him enjoying the performance (one of the activities he continued to enjoy the longest in his dementia journey).” –Elaine E.

 

Rhythms of Life

Teaching artists, percussionist Manny Arciniega and bassist Chris Brown, perform ‘Stay Cool,’ by trumpeter Victor Olaiya in a video to be premiered in Rockville-based JCA-Kensington Club’s online variety show. In the video the artists demo loops of bass, percussion, and body rhythms to encourage breathing, movement, and imagination.

 

heART Kits

Teaching artist Marci Wolf-Hubbardis assembling heART Kits for delivery with meals to isolated seniors affiliated with Vita Shady Grove Nursing and Rehabilitation in Maryland. The kits include art supplies to encourage creativity in seniors despite distancing.


We're Hiring

As Arts for the Aging forges ahead with a newly revitalized strategic plan celebrating recent growth and enrichment in our mission and programming, we are expanding and transitioning our team. We recently invited applications for new and continuing full-time staff positions -- Program Director, Administrative Manager and Fundraising Coordinator. The job description and application instructions for the Fundraising position are available via the link above. No phone inquiries or snail mail applications, please.

UPDATE AS OF 5/1/2020: As we move into the hiring and on-boarding phases for two of the roles, Program Director and Administrative Manager, we are pausing on accepting applications for the Fundraising Coordinator position. 

Over the last two years our artistic faculty and reach to community partners has grown by 20%. 23 teaching artists --- five who are new introducing curricula in theatre, play-writing, poetry, and tango --- regularly reach 1,376 older adults and caregivers in 50 community and residential care settings and cultural institutions in the Greater Washington, D.C. region. Together with 600 annual and celebrated music, dance, and visual arts programs, these workshops provide accessible and uplifting ways to meet the effects of changing abilities that come with aging.

With the challenge that most of our staff is changing at once, comes the opportunity to bring on new colleagues around similar hiring timelines to partner with us in next exciting steps. We look forward to new frontiers.