Ecumen is developing innovative programming to bring high-quality art experiences to its senior communities in a partnership with ArtSage, a Minnesota nonprofit that connects artists and the arts with aging through training programs, consulting services and other resources.

“We’re starting what we expect to be a deep relationship with ArtSage,” said Judy Blaseg, Ecumen Vice President of Philanthropy, who just joined the ArtSage board.  “This is an amazing and unique new effort to broaden the art experiences of our residents.”

To kick off the initiative, Blaseg said Ecumen is funding a three-month pilot program at Ecumen Lakeshore in Duluth. The pilot launches with a day-long “Intro to Arts & Aging” workshop on October 24. Sessions will include: Myths of Aging, the Aging Brain, and the History of the Arts & Aging Movement. ArtSage staff and master trainers will teach best practices for planning and implementing creative arts activities with older adults, including staff training and professional evaluation to help Ecumen Lakeshore build an arts-infused community.

The October 24 workshop is for artists, caregivers and family members, senior-serving organization staff, and all those who wish to learn more about the emerging field of arts and aging. 

The Ecumen Lakeshore program also aims to build relationships with Duluth-area artists and arts organizations and sustain a continuing connection between the local arts community and Lakeshore residents and staff. The pilot will run until the end of the year.  Blaseg said residents at Ecumen Lakeshore are so excited about the program that they are helping to fund it through personal contributions.

“The Duluth pilot will lay the groundwork for a much more arts programming in Ecumen communities,” Blaseg said. “We think the programming we are developing with ArtSage is unique for senior communities.  We’ve looked and looked for models we could use, and we haven’t been able to find any. This is innovative new territory in the field of aging.”

Blaseg said because of the high demand for quality art experiences in senior communities, Ecumen is aggressively pursuing grants to fund a much larger initiative.

The Ecumen partnership project is managed by ArtSage master teacher Jane Tygesson, author of “Opening Doors to Memory & Imagination,” a manual to help museums create programs to engage the senses and spark conversation for people with memory loss.  Arts residencies for Lakeshore residents will be offered by three master teaching artists: Zoë Bird of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project-MN, visual artist Michèle Coppin, and Iris Shiraishi of Taiko for Life.

"This partnership with Ecumen is an important step in building Minnesota's arts and aging movement," said ArtSage Executive Director Tammy Hauser. "We're demonstrating with this project how senior communities can be transformed into arts-rich centers of learning, wellness and creativity."

ArtSage is a connector, convener and catalyst for the field of arts and aging. A Minnesota-based nonprofit, ArtSage provides training programs, consulting services, and arts and aging resources. Learn more at: