Art for the Ages

“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about ourselves, but you should know what art is, because that is what may give you peace, understanding, or tolerance in your life.”

Teaching artist Kukuli Velarde

“I was interested in the class because we have a Hispanic teacher and a culture I can identify myself in. I wanted to learn more about my culture and express myself in my new home.”

Erasto Perez, Ceramics: Stories for the Ages participant

Art for the Ages is a nationally recognized, institution-wide initiative at Fleisher Art Memorial that fosters greater access to lifelong learning, particularly for older adults.

As the population of older adults continues to rise and life expectancy increases, Fleisher remains committed to serving the region’s older adults while fostering goodwill, community spirit, and camaraderie. At Fleisher, this benefits a significant portion of our community and validates the many studies that show engagement with the arts helps improve the cognitive skills and well-being of those 55 and older. It also helps in a number of other categories, including physical activity, mood elevation, and a decrease in depression, isolation, doctor visits, and medication requirements.

Fleisher offers special programs geared towards specific ethnic groups, including free Spanish-language art programs for older adults in South Philadelphia’s Latinx immigrant community. Fleisher’s pilot program, Ceramics: Stories for the Ages, was a 12-week program led by celebrated Kukuli Velarde centered on folk and traditional arts. The program culminated in a public exhibition in Fleisher’s gallery and a community celebration with engaging talks and interactive art-making stations suited for children and adults.

Since that pilot, the program has continued to explore a number of different mediums. During the pandemic, Fleisher delivered art supply kits to each student, and teaching artists continued to engage with them through virtual platforms. A compendium of artwork exploring the students’ experiences with COVID-19 was compiled and will be published in the spring.

In addition, Fleisher partners with ARTZ Philadelphia to provide free monthly art experiences for people living with dementia and their caregivers. ARTZ Philadelphia partners with cultural venues throughout Greater Philadelphia to offer informal, highly interactive conversations. These sessions are generally housed in Fleisher’s gallery, which regularly shows work by the Philadelphia region’s emerging contemporary artists as well as work created by Fleisher students and teaching artists.

Fleisher is one of the oldest community art schools in the country and, for nearly 125 years, has provided countless people the opportunity to create art in its free and low-cost art education programs. For adults 55 and better, Fleisher serves as a venue for socialization, exploration of creativity, and the joy of art-making.