Creating a Sense of Community Throughout The Appalachian Highlands

Exploring the Arts and Gifts of Aging

The Fullness of Time: Artful Aging


“In 2016, fifteen nonprofit organizations were selected to participate in a national demonstration project.

Chosen from a highly competitive field of more than 200 applicants, these fifteen organizations formed the first cohort of grantees to partner with Aroha Philanthropies to support the development and expansion of Artful Aging programs.”

“We believe that the Seeding Vitality Arts initiative will demonstrate the potential impact of such programs for older adults, arts organizations, senior service providers, senior residential communities, and diverse groups everywhere.”

-from Aroha Philanthropies’ website,!seeding-artful-aging!




What we have accomplished

During 2017, the library offered workshops in storytelling, poetry, photography, sculpting, banjo, and mandolin to adults aged 55 years and older. Creating art is one of the most effective means of improving well-being in older adults, improving quality of life through better mental, physical, and psychological health. All Artful Aging workshops were offered free to participants and included all materials needed, such as cameras, musical instruments, and more.

With this funding, the library not only provided arts education to participants, but also provided financial support to local professional teaching artists, performance and gallery spaces, and created six community arts events which were free to attend and open to everyone.

“I heard about this sculpting class and forced myself to sign up for it. Well, the short version is that I met a bunch of vibrant, caring, and creative people, with a teacher who knew just how to give us permission to try new things and how to steer us, gently, toward some actual technical knowledge. I found the class to be demanding, and sophisticated in just the right way. It was a genuine art course that asked a lot, and gave a lot to a group of people who could handle it.

My classmates are interesting, creative people, who gradually opened up a place for me to feel accepted, befriended, and challenged to live-up to their standards. It has always struck me that dear friends do more than ‘let you be yourself.’ They push you to be a better self ‘and they require you to engage in the world with them. This was exactly the kind of atmosphere, constantly, in this class. It was supposed to be ‘fun,’ but it was, in fact, fun because it mattered. (And, as a general truth, I think this is the only way we can attack this chronic loneliness in elders: provide a place where we can be taken seriously enough to have to work hard according to high standards. Don’t you think?)

I think all of this reflects the degree of care and planning that went into this program. It’s clear to me that the people who proposed and taught all of this had a firm grasp of the kinds of needs facing ‘aging’ people, and of the ways in which various pursuits of art could help fill those needs. We don’t need condescending ‘thumb-twiddling’ pastimes. We need community, respect, rigor, real interaction on sophisticated levels with imaginative, and involved people who expect us to be the same.

This program gave us all of that. I have a new set of interests, a new community of people, and a new interest in BEING a part of my community. Since our class ended, I have made three fairly major pieces based on what I have learned, and I expect to keep doing this stuff. It is, in fact, FUN, in the finest sense of the word.”

– Richard Hood


The mission of the Johnson City Public Library states: “Through both traditional materials and emerging technologies, Johnson City Public Library offers a multitude of learning opportunities and entertainment choices in a dynamic center for the community.”

We strive to fulfill that mission in a multitude of ways. Libraries offer

classes for those over 55, but mostly they fall into the categories of computer classes and book groups. The classes offered through the Seeding Vitality Arts grant has really got us thinking outside the box. Our goal is that classes like this will be part of our new service model. Providing professional instructors over a series of classes gives our patrons something substantial-a skill, maybe a new passion, fellowship. The health benefits to participating in and enjoying artful activities goes beyond learning new skills, though. Think about the sense of accomplishment that comes with creating a sculpture or mastering a piece of music. We know there is a direct correlation between mental well-being and physical well-being. Improved hand-eye coordination, increased concentration and decrease of depression have all be associated with exposing seniors to meaningful art experiences.

The Board of Directors and staff of the Johnson City Public Library strive to provide our community with a wide variety of programs and services that improve the lives of our patrons. Your donation to the Artful Aging program at the Library will assure that we are able to continue these quality programs. Together we can make a difference.

To learn about classes or how you can donate to this program, please  call the Johnson City Public Library at 423-434-4454.

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