Feature on Aging Matters TV Show

Aging Matters is a television show produced by Arlington Independent Media. Recently, Janine Tursini, Director and CEO of Arts for the Aging, sat down with host Cheryl Beversdorf to talk more about the healing power of the arts and the programs offered by Arts for the Aging to enhance older adults’ wellness and quality of life.

Watch the episode here, or click the image below, as they discuss Arts for the Aging’s mission, our virtual and in-person programming, and our teaching artist training.

Aging Matters TV Show broadcasts Sundays at 5:30pm and Wednesdays at 6pm on Comcast Channel 69 or Verizon Channel 38 in Arlington Virginia. It is also on the radio on Tuesdays and Fridays at 2:00pm on WERA Arlington 96.7FM. Visit agingmattersonline.com to access all TV episodes and radio programs.

Photo credit: agingmattersonline.com/tv-show

Meet Our 2022-23 Fellow: Lenique Huggins

Hi, my name is Lenique Huggins. I’m a Communications Fellow with Arts for the Aging. My main project over this next year is managing and expanding Arts for the Aging’s social media reach. I developed a vision for this work having spent the previous year here as a programming and communications intern. I’ve had my hand in a wide range of projects like helping develop a research and arts demonstration video series for pain management in collaboration with the the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville and Lesley University in Cambridge, MA; supporting Arts for the Aging’s efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging; producing social media and website content; and providing technical support for programs. I grew up in a Caribbean household close to art and culture from all over the world. I’ve always been surrounded by music, dance, storytelling, and visual art, and my family hosted international students throughout my childhood. I started playing the piano at age 3, and have been singing, dancing, and doodling for as long as I can remember. My mom jokes that when I was younger, she always knew when I was upset, because she would hear me practicing piano voluntarily. Despite my early exposure to art, it wasn’t until my undergraduate experience at Duke University and through community service during that time that I began to understand the therapeutic value of art. I led art programs at a family shelter and taught K-10 art in a rural community. I saw how encouraging self-expression could bring peace during uncertain times, reduce stress, and empower communities. When I went through a rough time in my sophomore year, I found myself using painting for a lot of healing. After attending a conference where I saw how art was being used to improve outcomes of people with cognitive decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s, I was inspired to look for similar work in my gap year before attending medical school. I found the organization searching the web for organizations at the intersection of arts and health, I loved what I saw when I found artsfortheaging.org, and I’m so glad I reached out with my resume and forged this path with them! I love that Arts for the Aging is multidisciplinary because I’m active in a range of art disciplines – music, dance, singing, and drawing are what I practice most. I also love that Arts for the Aging places value on improvisation’s core tenet of “yes, and”. It encourages me to be open to new things and big ideas. It reminds me that it’s great to be different and not fit into one mold. Interacting with older adult and caregiver participants in Arts for the Aging programs has reinforced the understanding that everyone has navigated life up differently up until the point that they met you, and this influences how people respond to one another. Sometimes we see participants on their good days, sometimes they’re having a bad day. Now I’m at Yale for medical school even as I engage in this fellowship with Arts for the Aging. In medicine too, I’ll interact with people on their good days, bad days, and worst days – it takes empathy, understanding, and meeting people where they are to provide good care. There are people who have been going to the doctor regularly all their life, there are people who haven’t had access or distrust the healthcare system and only come in for emergencies. No one is the same and it’s important for me to be attentive to that in all of my interactions. I plan to take the arts into my future medical career, to continue to be active at the intersection of arts and health. I want to push for arts programs intertwined with health interventions in communities that lack access to these resources. And I will continue practicing art. It’s a self-care practice that helps me combat burnout and show up better for patients who need me.

Yale School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony | August 8th, 2022. Pictured: Lenique Huggins (right) and Dean Nancy J. Brown, MD, Dean of Yale School of Medicine (left). Photography by Robert Lisak.

Annual Report 2021: Rebirth

Dear Friends,

As you settle into the summer with family, friends, and loved ones, we want to tell you about some milestones in bringing the dazzling beauty and therapeutic power of artful, joyous connection to more corners of older adult and caregiver communities. Our impact is evident. Pandemic connection, expanded workshop types, partnership, workforce development, cultural equity, capacity building, and recognition have lit the way.

We are pleased to share with you our 2021 annual report, Rebirth, as we celebrate all the ways that community support continues to inspire, uplift, and connect us all. Read the full newsletter here.

Photo by Stephanie Williams Images

Creating a More Inclusive Arts for the Aging

Dear Friends,

We are committed to the vital work of cultural equity, which for us means that racial equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB) are guiding lights through recent challenges presented to the world—the pandemic, a financial crisis, and continuing racial injustice. We have brought in experts to lead cultural equity workshops for our board of trustees, staff, teaching artists, and volunteers. This key stakeholder cohort is now a formal committee of the board of trustees and meets bi-monthly in what we are calling equity jams. Together we are implementing key recommendations from an organizational cultural equity assessment, which is helping us identify, discuss, and put into action what it means to become a fully equitable organization in both policy and practice. Externally, we are seeking funding and partnerships to expand the accessibility and inclusivity of our creative aging programs in Greater Washington, D.C.

We are developing more client and partner reach with communities that are BIPOC-led and/or BIPOC reaching (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) so that we can strengthen impact with and in historically marginalized communities. We are recruiting more teaching artists with diverse backgrounds, arts disciplines, and who are multi-lingual. We are infusing our therapeutic and multi-disciplinary arts programs with more multi-sensory approaches to increase entry points for inclusive engagement with participants impacted by varying conditions in aging. While creating these collaborations and strategies is helping address some of the immediate impacts of racial inequities in health and aging that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, we’re also moving ahead with a spirit of long-term sustainability. We are maintaining community connections, robust partnerships, and inclusive co-created programs already established over our 34-year history. Progress is measured by surveying stakeholders on impact, conducting pre-and post-workshop assessments, and by comparing pre- and post-pandemic constituent reach as we build back our client base with hybrid programming: in-person, virtually, telephonically, and with home-delivered heART Kits.

Embracing a theme of Connection in 2022, in May the board adopted recommendations made by the equity cohort for revisions to our organizational statements of mission, vision, values, and beliefs. Together, we also created cultural equity statements, leveraging resources from advocates at the national level, Americans for the Arts. Our cultural equity statements reflect vital and lasting beliefs about our work together. They are foundational to Arts for the Aging’s mission, goals, activities, and ways we relate to one another. They are principles that unite us—program participants, teaching artists, board, staff, advisors, volunteers, clients, and partners. Our goal is to create an organization that is welcoming and inspires a sense of belonging at all levels to people with diverse abilities and backgrounds.

We are pleased to share our revised organizational statements and our new cultural equity statements.

Illustration: Created by Lenique Huggins and inspired by an Arts for the Aging equity jam.