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Art on the Mind: Ten Years of Creative Aging

Frye Creative Aging Art Making Class

“Arts can both reshape how people think about aging and also foster growth and meaning in late life.”—Anne Basting, PhD, Creative Care: A Revolutionary Approach to Dementia and Elder Care

A person living with dementia experiences a shift in their perception of the world due to changes in the brain. Most of us know or have known someone living with dementia. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type, there are different forms, and each individual living with dementia possesses a wide spectrum of abilities and experiences.

Creative Aging art-making class, Frye Art Museum, 2018

Creative Aging art-making class, Frye Art Museum, 2018. Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit.

Since 2010, Seattle’s Frye Art Museum has developed and led Creative Aging programs that range from small group experiences in the galleries and art studio to one-on-one artmaking in residential care communities to conferences and workshops on creativity, dementia, and healthy aging.

The Frye’s Creative Aging programs offer arts engagement for people living with dementia and their care partners, who may be experiencing a unique shift in their roles. With an emphasis on present-moment awareness and a strengths-based approach, these programs encourage creative exploration, experimentation, and playfulness to bring a renewed sense of purpose, well-being, and connection with others.

“We tap into strengths and are especially focused on the present,” says Mary Jane Knecht, Manager of Creative Aging Programs at the Frye. “We’ve created a positive and safe environment where participants are able to engage in a way that, perhaps out in the world, they’re feeling less comfortable with. Here, participants determine the pace, and everyone listens closely, without judgment or impatience.” 

Opening November 17, 2020, Art on the Mind: Ten Years of Creative Aging is an exhibition celebrating and sharing stories and works of art that highlight the experiences of people living with dementia and their care partners and those who help make the programs happen, including teaching artists, volunteers, and the Creative Aging Advisory Committee. Their experiences are testimony to the success of arts engagement programs in bringing joy, respect, and dignity to people living with dementia while de-stigmatizing the disease. The exhibition runs through November 14, 2021.

Creative Aging gallery discussion, Frye Art Museum, 2020

Creative Aging gallery discussion, Frye Art Museum, 2020. Photo by Katherine Lamar.

The Frye Art Museum is a living legacy of visionary patronage and civic responsibility, committed to artistic inquiry and a rich visitor experience. A catalyst for our engagement with contemporary art and artists is the Founding Collection of Charles and Emma Frye, access to which shall always be free. Visit fryemuseum.org for more information about the Museum and the Creative Aging programs. While we are not able to gather in person for now, explore virtual artwork discussions, art-making activities, singalongs, and more on www.fryemuseum.blog


Contributor Keri PollockKeri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, a care management and consultation practice based in Seattle. She has served on the Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging Advisory Committee since 2010 and co-facilitates the Frye’s quarterly Meet Me at the Movies program, currently on hiatus during COVID-19. 

Photo credit: The photo at the top of the page is a Creative Aging art-making class at the Frye Art Museum, taken by Jonathan Vanderweit in 2017.

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