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Crowdsourcing a Conference on Creative Aging

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
Portrait of artist Athena Tacha in front of her conceptual photographic work "36 Years of Aging" (1972-2008) shown at the Ellipse Gallery, Arlington, VA, 2008
Portrait of artist Athena Tacha in front of her conceptual photographic work "36 Years of Aging" (1972-2008) shown at the Ellipse Gallery, Arlington, VA, 2008

Would your museum like to host a national convening on museums and creative aging?

Rather than figuring out the best site for such a meeting on our own, my colleagues and I at the Alliance are inviting you to speak up. Let’s call it crowdsourced conference planning.

The convening, which will be held in fall 2019, will build on the Alliance’s partnership with Aroha Philanthropies, which is currently supporting a museum cohort in their Vitality Arts program. Aroha and the Alliance want to bring together representatives from a wide variety of organizations dedicated to creative aging, and from museums of all types and sizes, so that practitioners from these sectors will learn about each other’s work, share information on the latest research and best practices, and lay the foundations for future partnerships and projects.

Why is this issue important for the future of museums and society? By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older in the US (compared to only 76.4 million under the age of 18). This demographic shift makes it more important than ever that we change the cultural norm of marginalizing older members of society. We need to combat the loneliness and isolation that often cripple aging individuals, and find ways to harness the knowledge, experience, and creativity of this growing population. While the aging of America presents museums with challenges of retention and access, museums are positioned to play a major role in building social connections, nurturing creative expression, providing opportunities for meaningful work, and enhancing health, wellbeing, and lifelong learning.

Our goals for the convening are to:

  • Raise awareness of the need to combat ageism though all areas of organizational operations, including programming, marketing, accessibility, and hiring
  • Share the latest research on the transformative power of creativity and arts programming
  • Profile case studies from museums and other organizations participating in Aroha Philanthropies’ creative aging programs
  • Form lasting connections between museums and organizations working in the creative aging sector
  • Inspire participants to start new initiatives, programs, services, and partnerships in support of creative aging
  • Generate content (video, text) that can be shared with a broader audience

I prefer to hold convenings in museums (rather than generic hotels or conference spaces) because…well, because museums make for a better and more memorable experience. So my colleagues and I are looking for a museum interested in being an active partner on this topic, as well as being able to provide:

  • An auditorium that can hold at least 200 people
  • Space to accommodate lunch and breaks
  • Three or four breakout spaces for interactive activities and discussions

Because we want to bring museum people together with other sectors working with creative aging, it would be a bonus if the host museum’s community includes academic programs, health care research or providers, or associations or other nonprofits focused on aging, creativity, and wellness.

And in the spirit of “no about us without us,” we hope to attract attendees who self-identify as representatives of the populations being served through this work. For this reason, we are particularly interested in areas that are home to significant communities of retirees.

If you are interested in exploring whether your museum would be a good fit for this convening, please email me at emerritt (at) aam-us (dot) org by October 15.
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1 Comment

  1. So great to see this news! Here at Tate Exchange we programme a lot of creative aging activity with a variety of specialist partners and we’re in a conversation with China and Taiwan about this too. If we can be of any help, it would be wonderful to knowledge exchange with you as Seeding Vitality Arts in Museums and the conference develop.

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