Grand Rapids will be seeing some new arts education opportunities for older adults thanks to a grant awarded to the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) to support the launch of new programming to serve the community.
The National Guild for Community Arts Education recently announced that WMCAT is one of 10 nonprofit organizations across the country that has been selected to receive a $7,000 seed grant to create innovative arts education programming specifically for older adults.
Known as the Catalyzing Creative Aging program, the goals of this initiative are to increase the capacity to serve older adults through skill-based participatory programs, provide models of high-quality creative aging programs to the field, and raise public awareness about the benefits of this type of programming.
Trudy Ngo-Brown, WMCAT’S director of creative programs, said that WMCAT is eager to help serve the Grand Rapids community through these efforts.
“Older adults are a population that tend to be underserved,” Ngo-Brown said. “Having skill-based programs is important for them, and we’re looking forward to these new opportunities and expanding our capacity in this way.”
WMCAT was invited by the National Guild for Community Arts Education to apply for the grant and became one out of 20 initial finalists. The finalists were then invited to apply for specific funding, and WMCAT was one of 10 finalists to receive the grant.
To test the waters of this new innovative programming, WMCAT is working alongside Samaritas, a social ministry organization, which includes senior living facilities, to develop a pilot round of arts education classes. Samaritas will be recruiting some residents to come to WMCAT in the fall and participate in a fiber-arts-based class that will introduce shibori, a Japanese tie-dye art form.
Ngo-Brown said the class will begin on Oct. 1 and run for six weeks, with the class meeting twice a week. It will be a new opportunity for these older adults to experience arts education over an extended time frame while also allowing them to get out into the community.
“Normally these kinds of opportunities for older adults are short-term, like day workshops, so we’ll be exploring what it looks like to have them take place over a longer period of time in order to build skills,” Ngo-Brown said. “This will also provide an opportunity for the residents to get out and to connect with other organizations.”
Although WMCAT hasn’t finalized any specific plans for the grant funding after the completion of the pilot round, Ngo-Brown is hopeful that these efforts will already begin to impact and transform the Grand Rapids community.
“Our hope is that we’ll come away with some helpful takeaways from the pilot round,” Ngo-Brown said. “Even though we don’t have definitive plans just yet, I’m confident that this is the beginning of expanded programming for this age group within our community.”
WMCAT wants to be intentional about accommodating older adults and ensuring that these opportunities will be beneficial for them.
“Right now we’re thinking through any possible barriers of coming into our space and the right length of time for these classes.” Ngo-Brown said. “Ultimately, we want older adults to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m still growing. I want to learn new things and be creative.’ And we’re excited about helping them do that.”
*Photos courtesy of Samaritas