For Seniors

“I love that each and every individual is able to express him/herself in many different ways and levels, and it is all welcomed and encouraged.”

-Mor Pissetzky, “Hats Off” participant

Our outreach for seniors in our community seeks to serve those with limited financial resources, who cannot easily reach cultural events on their own, and who are at risk of social isolation.
We have created innovative art programs for people in assisted living and residential care facilities for over 28 years, improving the lives of hundreds of Chicago metropolitan area seniors each year.

Our hands-on learning process goes beyond the traditional “arts and crafts” activities typically offered at care facilities. Guided by teaching artists, seniors in our programs participate in activities such as viewing and discussing original, museum-quality works of art; creating original hands-on projects that articulate the richness of their life experience; and celebrating their accomplishments with culminating gallery presentations open to the community.

Hats Off for Art: Creative Community Building with Older Adults

Hats are used by all cultures to convey complex cultural meanings that express one’s status, religion, occupation, and collective or personal identity. In Hats Off to Art, seniors in assisted care facilities and nursing homes mine their own experiences to create expressive representations of who they are in a series of workshops. Over the course of six weeks, teaching artists provide meaningful opportunities for seniors to learn about multiple aspects of visual art as a means to tap into potential for self-expression, and to have engaged social interaction with peers. Participants explore painting, drawing, sculpting and mixed media activities. The project culminates with each participant creating a hat embellished with a variety of materials that expresses their individual identities.  Finished creations are displayed at a reception where friends and family celebrate their artistic achievements.

Spirit of Art

We uncover the spirit of art and the spirit of each other through thoughtful discussion of art objects in this program. With our “mobile museum”, we install a gallery of professional high-quality original art at the host’s facility. Teaching artists lead seniors through interactive discussions to uncover the art concepts and the groups’ perceptions of the work. Lively conversations embrace multiple perceptions and provide avenues for the residents to learn about themselves, each other, and the creative process. The program is adaptable to the cognitive level of different individuals and groups.

Picturing Thoughts

Rooted in the belief that there is a vital connection between memory and visual imagery, we developed Picturing Thoughts. In this seven week program, participants will develop personal Art Books led by two Art Encounter Teaching Artists. Each week, the group focuses on a different theme intended to stimulate the imagination and memories. Themes include clothing, nature, personal objects, and special events. The teaching artists introduce each theme by presenting original artworks that exhibit the theme in imaginative ways, then participants respond by making responsive artworks that are assembled together as a book. The program concludes with an exhibit, reception and presentation of the Art Books for the other residents as well as the families and friends of the participants.

Senior facilities we have worked with in the Chicago area include:


  • Alden Estates
  • Bethesda Home
  • Birchwood Plaza
  • Dobson Plaza Nursing Home
  • Glen Elston Nursing Center
  • Glenbridge Nursing Care
  • Heritage Woods
  • Imperial Grove
  • Lincolnwood Place
  • Mather Pavillion
  • Mid-America Convalescence Center
  • Montgomery Place
  • Presence Resurrection
  • Joseph Care
  • Paul’s House
  • Sunrise of Lincoln Park
  • The Breakers
  • The Grove
  • The Highlands
  • Westminster Place