Programming Models in Libraries

The Creative Aging Libraries Project

The Creative Aging Libraries Project is the most fully developed model for creative aging programming in public libraries.

Developed by the national arts service organization, Lifetime Arts, this model builds the capacity of libraries to deliver and sustain arts education programs for older adults and is helping to establish public libraries as centers for creative aging.

This model, grounded in Dr. Gene Cohen’s 2006 landmark study, The Creativity and Aging Study, which found true health promotion and disease prevention effects for older adults who were actively engaged in sequential arts learning programs, is also based on best practices in arts education and community programming, and is applicable to a wide range of community organizations that serve older adults.

Project Goals

  • To provide professionally conducted, collaboratively planned instructional arts programs for older adults in selected urban public library systems to demonstrate the effectiveness and value of creative aging programs;
  • To build the capacity of public libraries and their community-arts and aging partners to initiate, plan, deliver and sustain effective creative aging programs in public libraries through professional development, technical assistance, access to support materials and arts resources; and
  • To provide and nationally disseminate an adaptable creative aging program implementation model for public libraries.

How it Works

Organized through and with library systems, the Creative Aging Libraries Project supports collaboration between professional teaching artists and public librarians to implement free instructional arts programs for older adults.

Lifetime Arts solicits funding to partner with specific library systems, and reallocates those funds through a competitive process, a common practice of arts organizations. Interested libraries in those systems work with teaching artists to develop and propose a creative aging workshop curriculum and apply for funding.

Workshop Structure & Objectives

Workshop series, made up of 8-12 sessions, are offered in all arts disciplines (visual, performing and literary) at selected host libraries.

Guided by professional teaching artists, the workshop series are designed to facilitate in-depth arts learning. Participants build skills, explore new materials, and learn a variety of art-making techniques. They also share their learning with each other; trained teaching artists create a safe and risk free environment where experimentation and social engagement are encouraged.  Importantly, creative aging library programs foster new relationships between older adults, their local libraries, and the larger community.

The Culminating Event

At each library, a culminating event – free and open to the public – celebrates the achievements of each participant and provides confirmation of the value of their work. Event attendees, many of whom themselves are older adults, find encouragement and inspiration in the celebration of their peers’ accomplishments.

Other Components of the Lifetime Arts Model

Direct service programming is not the only component of the Lifetime Arts model.  Other core components include:

  • professional development and ongoing technical assistance for librarians and artists;
  • independent evaluation; and
  • documentation and dissemination.

National Expansion

The model has been implemented in partnership with seven major library systems in four states, many arts and cultural organizations, and national organizations including the American Library Association/Public Programs Office.

Now in its fifth year, the program has demonstrated how librarians and their artist-collaborators can implement free instructional arts programs for older adults that enhance the quality of life for participants.

Looking Ahead

As a result of the Creative Aging Libraries Project, Lifetime Arts envisions:

  • Increased opportunities for older adults to discover or re-discover their creative capacities and for teaching artists and arts organizations to expand their reach; and
  • A shift from the routine, passive entertainment offerings of community organizations to the implementation of programs that actively engage older adults in in-depth learning;
  • A network of teaching artists and arts organizations trained to create and deliver meaningful programming for and with older adults in a variety of settings, including libraries;
  • A community where teaching artists and their community partners share a vision for positive aging, bringing complementary strengths to designing and implementing arts programs for older adults while creating new resources to improve the quality of life among a growing segment of the population;
  • Networks of community, arts, social service and government leaders who understand the value of arts participation for older adults, who work together to initiate, plan and deliver effective arts programs in their communities;

Other Library Models:

Outreach Art Tutoring for Seniors (OATS), Pima County Library, Arizona

This program brings arts instructors into community settings, including public libraries, to teach older adults where they are vs. requiring people to come to The Drawing Studio‘s facility in Tuscon.

Create Together: An Intergenerational Art Program, Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), Pennsylvania

Part of ACLA’s Intergenerational Academy, “Create Together,” is an intergenerational arts program created in partnership with The Brew House Association, a local artists’ collective, and Generations Together at the University of Pittsburgh.

Arts & Archives at the Hartford Public Library

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