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Artistic Communities: Thoughtful Programming Activates Environments

October 10, 2016, In News, Recent Posts, by John Cronin

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As communities make decisions regarding their approach to addressing the definition of the modern CCRC, it is not just about which renovations, additions or building projects to tackle. They need to consider the programs and services necessary to truly make these physical spaces a success on campus. A number of communities are finding art-related programming to be an important part of creating an active lifestyle for residents. From spaces to create art to places to display art, design and programming interplay to enhance the lives of residents.

AG Architecture continues to explore ways to integrate art-specific spaces into communities and has had the opportunity to work with organizations, such as Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America (PMMA) and Masonic Homes of Kentucky, Inc., who acknowledge the importance of art as part of wellness initiatives that elevate the resident experience within their communities. See what their leaders have to say about prioritizing art programming.

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PMMA has built a culture summarized by the phrase – the way you want to live. The way in which the organization cares for its residents focuses on personal choices and preferences. Providing artistic programming has been part of this resident-centered care model for many years as PMMA believes in “the agelessness of human creativity.”

Learn more about their long-term commitment to the arts and the impact of physical space on this programming.

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Q&A with

Regina Barger

Marketing Projects Manager

Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America

 

Why has your community prioritized art programming? How do art programs enhance your community? 

Barger: Arts programs, such as our innovative Art is Ageless® initiative, encourage lifelong learning – a core value of PMMA.  The program was born out of PMMA’s desire to encourage continued learning and reaffirm “the agelessness of human creativity” and to demonstrate that “when it comes to human worth, it is the mind and spirit – not age – that counts.”  These sentiments were expressed by former PMMA president, Rev. Thomas C. Wentz.

Arts programs enhance the lives of our residents, and in turn our communities.  The creative process itself increases self-esteem, reduces depression, improves memory, promotes critical thinking, encourages playfulness, provides a sense of control, nurtures spirituality, and builds friendships between residents and people beyond their generation.

Arts programs truly make a positive impact, not only for the residents themselves, but also for their families and friends as well. The son of a resident recently said, “Mom has trouble communicating…but we found something that brings her a lot of peace.  She recently started taking painting classes. Art is a way for her to express herself without feeling confused and disoriented.” 

 

What types of programs do you provide? What spaces are important to support this programming? 

Barger: PMMA offers residents and other seniors from the greater community the opportunity to express their creativity through an annual system-wide art competition and exhibit, musical and dramatic events, educational opportunities and current events discussions. Local PMMA communities partner with professional artists and art therapists, host Art Discovery parties to explore new outlets, sponsor theater and culinary groups, and connect residents with special activities, such as harmonica lessons and even playwriting classes.

Spaces need to be multi-functional and easily accessible to quickly accommodate the variety of programming within each individual PMMA community.  Weekly art class with a local guest instructor may be followed by an impromptu resident-led culinary discussion and tasting. Spaces need to be adaptable to the various opportunities that enrich the lives of our residents.

 

What challenges have you faced with spaces in the past? Have there been spaces that have been designated for art programs that have gone unused or been transitioned to other functions? 

Barger: Due to campus size and footprint, some of our smaller communities do not have the luxury of larger spaces dedicated to arts programs. Wichita Presbyterian Manor is currently the only campus with a dedicated space. We do, however, have communities that have ongoing displays in various areas of the campus, and the art pieces themselves become part of a “living gallery.” While the programming is still ongoing on our other campuses, it occurs in varying spaces that can accommodate the needs of the specific activity.

 

How do you integrate the art produced throughout your community? 

Barger: A few of our larger PMMA communities currently have and utilize track systems in main hallways to display resident artwork. Residents in these communities enjoy this display method as artwork can be viewed as they move throughout the campus, and artwork can be transitioned seasonally and as new pieces are available for display.  Pieces are also incorporated in appropriate areas using various methods of display.

Artwork selected each year at the masterpiece level of the Art is Ageless® competition are featured in the annual calendar and on greeting cards. The calendar and cards are highly anticipated each year by our residents and competition participants, and are shared as gifts to family and friends.

The Art is Ageless website, artisageless.org, also allows Presbyterian Manors the ability to offer an online gallery showcasing senior artists’ work, as well as a digital version of the calendar, and the ability to send a personalized e-card to loved ones. Visit the website to learn more about this initiative and to see the beautiful art in numerous categories.

 

Do you have any suggestions for community leaders who are looking to integrate a stronger arts program? What are things to think about related to programming? What advice can you give them about the physical space needed to support the programming? 

Barger: Successful programming occurs if it is led by and structured around the interests of the residents and those they serve. While some arts programs can be standardized and successful among all campuses system-wide, other special events and programs may be received differently from one campus to another dependent on the unique culture of the greater community, and the life experiences and interests of the residents or participants. The Art is Ageless® program is a program that allows for standardization of key elements, while still allowing flexibility in the overall implementation.  Arts programs and special events should be continuously evolving, and tailored to the desires and interests of the participants.

When planning spaces for programming, the key is to truly think outside of the box.  Maximize spaces by utilizing every area available – from event spaces, common areas, dining areas, hallways, and private sitting areas to items on easels on shelves, bookcases, and even reception desks. Consider means of creative display that can be as unique as the artwork itself.

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In the case of Masonic Homes of Kentucky, the organization is delivering a new art experience in an arts center that is being planned at The Meadow Active Lifestyle Community. Careful consideration was taken to properly orient the space to gain north facing light. Enhancing the volume of the area was also explored in order to maximize exposure to daylight. In order to augment the functionality of the space to suit the programming, a kiln and sinks with an interceptor for clay have been included in the area. Special storage for individual artists as well as customized storage spaces for paintings and other specific items has been taken into consideration.

Learn more about the importance of art programming at Masonic Homes and its new art center at The Meadow Active Lifestyle Community.

 

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Q&A with

J Scott Judy

Sr. V.P. Operations & Chief Operations Officer

Masonic Homes of Kentucky, Inc.

 

Why has your community prioritized art programming? How do art programs enhance your community?

Judy: Creative art has been around since the beginning of time. It’s not trendy.

Thankfully, Masonic Homes is located in a city that appreciates and invests in the arts. It offers wonderful museums, numerous art fairs and various public art spaces. It strives to promote artists and their work.

Art is something any person can participate in regardless of their skill or physical ability. Even as our residents age, their passions and interests keep them young. We provide opportunities for our residents to pursue those interests as close to their home as possible.

Our population of residents includes several with considerable talent. Painting is the dominate art, but we have sculptors, potters, performance artists and art collectors. We felt that if we created an environment which promoted those ideas it would be great stimulus for the residents.

 

What types of programs do you provide? What spaces are important to support this programming? 

Judy: We currently provide space for artists to participate in self-motivated programs or those offered by our life enrichment programs. We have a group of painters who get together regularly to socialize and critique. We also have local and nationally known artists visit for lectures and to share their work.

We continue to evolve our programming, so a new arts center is a primary part of our new construction project, The Meadow Active Lifestyle Community. This area is being designed to provide a studio experience and includes dedicated space for art gallery installations. The center will include a theater where residents can enjoy the visual arts and space for large group activities, including stage productions and seminars.

 

What challenges have you faced with spaces in the past? Have there been spaces that have been designated for art programs that have gone unused or been transitioned to other functions? 

Judy: Our campus includes many different buildings with several different levels of care. Our existing art and crafts areas are small and we have a number of them throughout the campus. Those small spaces are often overcrowded with supplies and not always accessible to residents because of their location.

 

What makes a space successful or supportive of art programming?

Judy: Designing spaces that are easily accessible and provide a level of “ease of use” is critical for community involvement. Form and function should be equal for a space to be successful. While having the correct environment goes a long way to make a program successful, the greater success comes from having the right staff—people with some knowledge in the arts who encourage resident participation.

 

Has your community been lacking proper display space? What types of display area do you want to incorporate in the future?

Judy: The display space we currently have is either too small or not in very good locations to attract an audience. The new building will have a dedicated space in a high visibility area of the building.

 

Do you have any suggestions for community leaders who are looking to integrate a stronger arts program? What are things to think about related to programming? What advice can you give them about the physical space needed to support the programming? 

Judy: Our commitment to artistic programming was by request. Based on interest from our residents, we are giving the new building an artistic theme where new and current residents can participate. Our best advice is to right size your areas. Too small an area discourages participation. Make sure they are fully equipped to encourage participation.

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AG Architecture has had the pleasure of working with these organizations to create spaces that support art programming. Each community is unique so for every project it is important to really listen to and discuss the needs of the organization and its residents. This includes understanding how communities will truly use spaces such as those dedicated to art programming.

By engaging with residents and team members to listen and discuss specific needs we are able to design spaces that best accommodate the production of the art as well as areas that properly display the artists’ creations. We look forward to continuing to explore the spaces needed to accommodate vibrant artistic and wellness amenities that enhance the lifestyle of residents at senior living communities around the country. Each community is unique and our team loves a challenge—the opportunity to design spaces that make each community we work with extra special for its residents.