Kohler Arts Center SPARK! Program

Organization Associated with Program
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
Sheboygan, Wisconsin 53081

The SPARK! program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center of Sheboygan, Wisconsin offers positive social and creative experiences for people who are living with neurocognitive disorders resulting in memory loss and their caregivers–experiences that are not dependent on memory skills that are fading or impaired. The Kohler Arts Center’s highly trained education staff and volunteers lead programs that emphasize the joy and creativity that can be found in the present moment, drawing on the strengths of the individuals irrespective of their diagnosis.

Programs are designed to serve older individuals living with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other neurocognitive disorders. They are available to groups coming from care organizations such as assisted-living facilities, long-term care facilities, and adult day centers. Programs can be adapted to the needs of other types of older groups.

The Kohler Art Center utilizes visual art, signing, dance, cooking, and other creative activities in their arts programming for people living with memory loss. Discussion of works of art is conversation-based, encouraging interaction and a positive and fluid exchange of ideas and observations. Programs do not rely on short-term memory or recall of information about art history. Art-making sessions encourage experimentation and playfulness and are often collaborative. All programs offer a variety of sensory experiences.

Program History

SPARK! was developed to help shift the focus from the deficiencies often associated with memory loss to the rich and satisfying experiences that are possible. The program has allowed the Kohler Art Center to create new partnerships with other museums, community organizations, and the Alzheimer’s Association. The Kohler Art Center is also a member of the SPARK! Alliance, a group of ten cultural organizations across Wisconsin (with one in Minnesota) that are committed to offering quality arts and cultural programming for people living with memory loss.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

SPARK! evaluates the effectiveness of its program by tracking participant re-enrollment, holding focus groups, collecting stories and testimonials, and conducting surveys. Evaluations are collected on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of the program by staff members.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Connect with organizations in your community that work with older adults while your program is in the planning stages. Approach art-making with a focus on the process and not the final product. Be open to collaborative projects—the Kohler Art Center has had much success using this approach.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Viewing Artwork, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in a Residency, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Arts Discipline: Dance, Museums, Music, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education
Target Audience: Caregivers - Family, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Arts Organization
Program Service Area: Rural, Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice