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Arts and Archives: Master Classes in the Fine Arts and Humanities for Older Adults

Hartford Public Library

Innovation Leader: Brenda J. Miller, Curator, Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library, bmiller@hplct.org

Problem Statement

The aging of the U.S. population is one of the greatest demographic and social transformations in American history. In Hartford, as across the nation, older adults, are more active and healthier than in the past, with different expectations, interests, lifestyles, and outlooks than their counterparts in previous generations. Arts and Archives fosters the positive relationship between creative expression and quality of life. Opportunities similar to Arts and Archives, targeting older adults and open to the public for free, are non-existent in Hartford. Arts and Archives engages participants in creative expression and thinking, develops artistic and critical thinking skills, builds and connects them to local history, and helps them discover their potential and productivity as they age.

Innovation

Hartford Public Library provides hands-on fine arts and humanities workshops as well as heritage-based seminars taught by professional artists, "masters" in their fields. Arts and Archives: Master Classes in the Arts and Humanities for Older Adults consists of seven arts and humanities modules, with workshops providing hands-on instruction in pen and ink drawing, visual arts, poetry writing, photography, music appreciation with a focus on blues and jazz, sculpture, and memoir writing. Each module includes a heritage-based seminar, either artist- or scholar-led, which incorporates artifacts, images, and personal narratives from the archives and special collections of the Hartford History Center. The hands-on instruction is enriched as participants think about an art or literary form in the context of Hartford's history. Participants enjoy opportunities to discover (or re-discover) and express their creativity and develop artistic and critical thinking skills.

Progress

Older adults in Hartford discovered (or re-discovered) and expressed their creativity and developed artistic and critical thinking skills in an information-rich library setting. They also learned about other activities and resources available to them to further enrich their lives. By exploring creative expression through the lens of community history, this program offers an exceptionally dynamic way to involve and educate adults while also connecting them to Hartford’s richly diverse heritage. The pieces created through this series will be the focus of a summer exhibition in the library’s premier gallery space – the ArtWalk and will exemplify how a public library can play an important role in fostering positive aging and lifelong learning.