— by Destiny Anderson, Social Media Coordinator

Students from Moore College of Art & Design and Jefferson Humanities & Health at Thomas Jefferson University attended a lunchtime discussion on art and care with artist, scholar and educator Anne Basting last week. Basting is a creative, committed to the power of the arts and culture to transform our lives as individuals and communities. She is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and founder and President of the award-winning non-profit TimeSlips. Basting's innovative work as both a community-engaged artist and a scholar has been recognized by a MacArthur Fellowship, an Ashoka Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and multiple major grants.

Basting has focused her over two decades of research on ways to infuse the arts into care settings, with a particular focus on people with cognitive disabilities such as dementia. The group discussed a chapter from Basting’s new book, “Creative Care: A Revolutionary Approach to Dementia and Elder Care.”

“This programming offers a model for how artists and arts administrators can be involved in the health care sector, something that was sparked as a discussion in spring 2019 when Nicole Garneau, who works with Basting, came and visited some classes at Moore,” said Daniel Tucker, Graduate Program Director in Socially Engaged Art.

During this event, Basting shared many stories related to her book and encouraged participants to share their own stories. She has long worked to destigmatize long-term care and bring cultural experiences to people receiving that care. She nods to two events in her life that encouraged her investment in this work—a special connection in her youth when she would spend quality time with her grandmother's friend, and her own mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s later in her life.

Basting’s award-winning non-profit, TimeSlips, has over 900 certified facilitators in 48 states and 20 countries. Many of these long-term care facilities utilize engaging questions to better connect with their residents, opening paths for conversations and activities.

“We needed the elegant invitation that is so simple, someone is drawn into yes—a very low-risk sense of commitment as the first starting point. That was our question of the day,” Basting said.

Students in Assistant Professor Maya Pindyck’s class, Hybrid Genre, have also incorporated practices from “Creative Care” into their curriculum.

"Our students are calling home-bound people through The Free Library of Philadelphia with questions of the day based on the book. We’re having difficulty reaching them," said Pindyck.

Basting understood their difficulties, explaining how important utilizing existing infrastructures has been in TimeSlip’s outreach programs. Programs such as Meals on Wheels and the USPS have helped deliver information on flyers, letting residents know to expect a call from a care provider on their landline, cutting out the need for technology and ensuring that person will answer a call from someone now familiar to them.

She went on to recount stories of “artistic phone calls” that were conducted as follow-up conversations with these people. People were matched up with painters, musicians and other creatives to chat with based on their shared interests.

“Those were really moving experiences—they start with a question. You never know where you're going to go from these questions," she said.

As the conversation regarding “Creative Care” wound down, Basting and other participants shared more personal stories and reflected on what “care” means to them. Basting reflected on our nature as humans to empathize with those we are caring for, going so far as to see yourself in your aging relatives and reflecting on what care could be like for you in the future. 

“To see meaning in their condition is to insist on meaning for you,” Basting concluded.

In conjunction with this event, Moore’s Graduate Studies programs in Socially Engaged Art hosted Basting as part of the ongoing Conversations@Moore public program series. This event gave attendees an opportunity to learn more about Basting’s work and an overview of the ties between art and aging, utilizing art to bring meaning and joy to late life through creativity.

This Conversations@Moore event is part of a three-part event series on the topic of “care crisis.” Care crisis asks, “How have artists and curators been responding this moment of health-climate-political-economic crisis and movements for racial justice?” This theme is an ongoing dialogue taking place at Moore across numerous courses and programs this academic year.

Registration is still available for upcoming care crisis events: Conversations@Moore: Alicia Grullón and Laura Raicovich on February 25, focusing on the politics of presence; and Work on Wellness: Building Ecosystems of Care with Creative Resilience Collective on March 2, exploring the many individual roles that make up our systems of community care.