Creative Aging Initiative

Organization Associated with Program
West Valley Arts Council
13243 N. Founders Park Blvd.
Surprise, Arizona 85379

The Creative Aging Initiative, a project of the West Valley Arts Council (WVAC), conducts classes for older adults and provides services to the arts education field in the West Valley area near Phoenix, Arizona. Creative Aging Initiative classes meet once a week for one to one and a half hours over 12 weeks. Each semester there is an opportunity for participants to exhibit their work or present a performance based on their classwork. All classes are led by a professional teaching artist, and the program serves approximately 40 older adults each year. 

Program History


WVAC was incorporated as the Cultural Arts Society West in 1969 and changed its name to the West Valley Fine Arts Council in 1989 to reflect a broader, more inclusive vision. It became the West Valley Arts Council in 2004. WVAC has been central to creating what is recognized as a high quality of life for West Valley residents, and it is the only multi-disciplinary arts organization of its type and scope in the valley. With the mission to “build audiences for all the arts, to drive arts policy forward, and to champion arts education,” WVAC created the Creative Aging Initiative in 2011 as a way to involve Arizona’s large retiree community in high-quality, arts-based programming.

This program has enabled WVAC to build strong community partnerships with local assisted living facilities and low-income housing complexes, reaching new demographic groups with high-quality, professionally conducted arts programs. WVAC also trains professional teaching artists to work with older adults enabling it to both serve this population and provide high-quality professional development

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Each teacher creates a syllabus outlining the goals and objectives of the class, and classes are evaluated based on how well the syllabus is executed. Programs are evaluated on an ongoing basis throughout the session by West Council Art Council staff and related partner agencies by means of surveys, observation, and attendance numbers.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

When developing an arts and aging program, do research. There are many great creative aging programs around the country. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Presenting a Performance, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency, Watch a Lecture/Demonstration
Arts Discipline: Dance, Design, Folk/Traditional Arts, Literature, Media Arts, Museums, Music, Musical Theater, Opera, Theater, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Ecology / Gardening / Natural Environments, Education, History, Science
Target Audience: Active Adults, Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Community Center, Library
Program Service Area: Rural, Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Promising Practices