Arts Education Initiative: Artful Aging

For the past two years, your library has provided a variety of skills-focused art classes for people 55 years and up led by professional artists. Initially funded through a “Seeding Vitality Arts” grant from Aroha Philanthropies, these free multi-session workshops offered participants the chance to explore new art forms in a welcoming atmosphere, including Appalachian music, storytelling, poetry, acting, sculpture, and photography. The results have been shared with the public through exhibits and performances at local art studios and theaters. While the original seed-money grant for Artful Aging has ended, the library hopes through fundraising to continue these opportunities at little or no charge.

JCPL Adult Services Librarian Lisa Williams says, “It’s been a privilege for the library to offer professional-quality art programs throughout the past two years.” She notes that it was inspirational to see people become empowered by learning new skills later in life. “Participants just couldn’t get enough of the inspiration, connection, expertise, and self-expression offered in these workshops. Even if they had never touched an instrument, stood on a stage, or penned a poem in their lives, they learned something new and then got to share their finished, original works with the community.”

Kathy Honeycutt, who took sculpture and folk art classes says, “Artful Aging gave me a creative space and outlet that I had never experienced, and learning new art forms gave me more confidence.” Along with learning new skills, participants also found a new community and meaningful relationships through these 8- to 10- week long workshops. Kathy says that when she joined Artful Aging, she had just retired from working in another city. “I really didn’t know many people in Johnson City. Through Artful Aging I built friendships with people I would never have met. These classes were an experience I will never forget both because of the friendships and the actual art created.”

To continue offering these classes, the library is partnering with local businesses and organizations throughout the year to fund the program going forward. The library is partnering with The Down Home for the next Artful Aging fundraiser. The local music venue is hosting “A Soirée of Song and Story” on Saturday, April 20. Featured performers include local musicians The Brother Boys, Richard Hood, and The Dependents; storyteller Molly Catron; and poets Jesse Graves and Rita Sims Quillen. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, but a donation of more is much appreciated. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online at www.downhome.com/events.

For more information about the upcoming fundraiser, contact Lisa Williams by email or at 423-434-4356. Learn more about and donate to Johnson City Public Library’s Artful Aging program by clicking here. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the program and the upcoming fundraiser.

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