Invent, Improvise, Replenish

Short, promotional videos of online programs are available on our Vimeo page linked here 

Creative aging in virtual times is inventive, improvisational, replenishing, and … technical! It also remains grassroots. We are incubating and training together with our teaching artists. We are re-learning what client communities and artistic faculty need during this ‘new now’ of the public health crisis. We are launching new programs. Slowly, diligently, we are reconnecting with older adult and caregiver communities in Greater Washington DC that our teaching artists have come to know and creatively care for 32 years.

We also recognize the hardship for so many families, the creative economy, artists, performers, marginalized communities of older Americans and people of color hardest hard hit by the pandemic.

Major advances in restructuring operations and programming during this unparalleled time are the result of stellar work by a fantastic team of staff and interns, our dynamic board of trustees, and our teaching artists.

As we look toward the upcoming fall season, Arts for the Aging is also thinking of new ways to engage and reconnect with our greater community through artful virtual events.

This summer has been a learning experience for us all. We look forward to expanding our reach, community impact, and programs as the future evolves.

To read more about our most recent updates, visit

Collaboration with Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The spirit of legendary American singer Marian Anderson was brought to life by members of Arts for the Aging's artistic faculty, ROMEZ3arts, in the halls within the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery during this vibrant exhibition workshop about the remarkably ravishing, dignified, humble, and revolutionary contralto. "See Me" at the Smithsonian engages older adults with memory loss and their care givers in the art of slow-looking and conversation around masterworks in their various museum collections. Arts for the Aging partners with the Smithsonian by bringing additional artistic modalities to inspire music-making and dance-making evoked by the art and the stories they illuminate. We welcomed staff from the World Bank who joined us to engage with philanthropic recipients, like Arts for the Aging, of their generous Community Connections Campaign. Starting in the gallery, museum educators Vanessa Jones and Amy Lewis Castine sparked conversation, and ROMEZ3arts (Anamer Castrello, Peter Joshua Burroughs, Carlos Cesar Rodriguez) evoked singing around key works in the show about Ms. Anderson. Then we moved to the museum’s magnificent indoor courtyard where we sang, danced, and felt the joy of connecting through the arts. In a moving moment during the workshop, Eleanor Roosevelt’s historic 1939 letter to the Daughters of the American Revolution was read aloud, which lambasted and ended her membership there when the DAR refused Ms. Anderson a performance at Constitution Hall because of her race. It paved the way for the glory of her singing at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial. Together we acknowledged the importance of the shared beauty of our differences in this melting pot we call, to quote Ms. Anderson’s astute lyrical change, the “Land where ‘Thy’ fathers died.” View a clip from the program here

An Afternoon with a Music Legend

Celebrated American composer and singer Dr. Ysaye Barnwell presented to a full house of Arts for the Aging Teaching Artists, Quicksilver senior improv dancers, and guests at this year's final workshop in our Teaching Artist Institute.  Known for her 34 years singing and recording with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Dr. Barnwell has, for nearly as long, spent time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop "Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition" has been conducted on three continents. Her work in the field is a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers alike, and is a model of pedagogy for educators, cultural activists, and historians. During the workshop, Dr. Barnwell sang spirituals and gospel music and instructed on these pillars of African American tradition.  The oral tradition of music-sharing lends itself well to older practitioners who may not be able to read or recall music and lyrics.  Mixing singing exercises and Q&A during the afternoon, Dr. Barnwell elevated our wisdom and inspired us to take forward Spirituals, "they are the art song," into Arts for the Aging's community-wide programs. Not to be relegated to a singular musical interest she quipped, "Rap is our newspaper," as she stays relevant to the changing voices of our times. We express heartfelt thanks to Levine Music for hosting our workshop.

Opening Exhibition at The Phillips Collection

It was an honor to participate for a second year in a museum exhibition celebrating creative aging at the Phillips Collection, honoring older adult artists participating in community-based arts workshops with Arts for the Aging and other partners like Iona Senior Center. Museum Educator Donna Jonte designed exhibition tours that brought works of art to life. These museum visits were followed by hands-on art-making workshops with Arts for the Aging teaching artists back at the senior center. You can find more images from the exhibition reception here. Below, teaching artist Annetta Dexter Sawyers admires a collaborative mural made by seniors at Alexandria Adult Day Services Center. The mural was inspired by "Marking Our Time: Aboriginal Woman Artists and Contemporary Art" at the Phillips. The exhibition runs through December 15, 2019 and we invite you to visit the show. Photo credit: Stephanie Williams Images.