Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Contemporary Art + Collaborations with the Elderly

Since we'll be working with seniors for our very first collaborative project, I thought I'd start off the blog with some links to interesting projects created with similar communities by contemporary artists.

David Greenberger works as the activities director at a nursing home. Since 1979 he has produced zines, books, and radio programs for NPR under the name of Duplex Planet - all based on his interviews with the elderly residents he works with. Greenberger asks them questions like "Would you rather have a dizzy spell or stub your toe?"; "Why do people yell?"; "Who is Frankenstein?"; and "What can robots do?" Their responses range from funny to sad, from insightful to curious, and they say lot about the human condition . Get a sampling on the Duplex Planet site (click on the little buildings for interview snippets).

Anna Callahan is an artist who collaborates with non-artists in all sorts of ways, collecting their experiences and transforming them into bus signage, brochures, "encyclopedias" of local knowledge, and interactive websites. She was recently commissioned to produce a website exploring the history of the town of Deldridge, WA. The result is a multimedia experience that gives a sense of the place, the past, and the voices and stories of Deldridge's residents through photographs, text, and audio interviews with people who grew up there. Check out the Deldridge Oral History Project HERE.

Harrel Fletcher is another artist who is known for his collaborations with everyday people. He has celebrated the residents of small towns and community centers through giant billboards, curated exhibitions of the personal items that office workers keep in their cubicles, and collaborated with children, mechanics, housewives, developmentally disabled to realize their creative ideas.

Josh Dorman is a painter who worked with the organization Memory Bridge to create a series of paintings in collaboration with Alzheimers patients. He spent time talking and listening to their stories and created visual landscapes or "maps" based on the memories they were able to share with him.

How do you feel about aging? What do you make of projects like these? Which projects or parts of projects do you like, and what might you do differently? Take a thorough look at each of these sites and use them as a starting point to think about how you'd like to engage with the people at Alden. Feel free to post your thoughts or other artists in the Comments section below!

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