Today we feature Create Together: An Intergenerational Art Program out of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. This program exemplifies the library-as-incubator idea, relying on community expertise and partnerships to provide a collaborative creative outlet for an intergenerational audience. Enjoy! – Laura

by Charity Leonette, Community Partnerships Coordinator, Allegheny County Library Association

Create Together: An Intergenerational Art Program brings together youth and older adults to share the experience of making art of all kinds for six weeks during the summer months. In 2007 the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA), Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, and the Brew House Association (BHA), a local arts organization, piloted a six-week intergenerational art program bringing together older adults and youth for art workshops and a gallery exhibit.

Due to the overwhelming success of the pilot program Create Together was reproduced in four libraries in 2008 and 2009, and in three libraries in 2011. Create Together was the genesis for the ACLA Intergenerational Academy, which in 2012 includes art programs, a poetry program called “Poetry Together,” movement programs “Yoga Together” and “Move Together,” a writing program called “Stories Together,” and four intergenerational book club groups.

How did it start? Where/what was the need, and how did this fill it? 

Allegheny County has the second largest senior population in the United States. Many seniors are isolated as their families no longer live in the community, and the library often serves as a social outlet. ACLA conducted a needs assessment of twenty libraries and found that planned intergenerational programming is infrequent, or a serendipitous result of multiple generations attending a community or all-ages program.

“I got to spend time doing art and learning new things with my Grandfather.” — Youth participant

How was it developed? 

Realizing that area libraries wanted to learn more about intergenerational programming, ACLA partnered with the Brew House Association, a local arts organization. A pilot program was designed to enhance youth and older adults’ perspectives of each other, and used the vehicle of visual arts as the meeting ground. In this process of deepening their awareness and appreciation of the arts, participants also deepened their trust and mutual understanding. Over six weeks, participants were introduced to different media styles including sculpture, collage, drawing, fabrics, acrylic painting, and watercolor painting. Sessions lasted 1.5 hours and had 12 participants per week.

BHA, Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, and other ACLA libraries partnered to make Create Together a huge success. As a long-standing artist organization in the region, the BHA was eager to be part of this project to expose their member artists to the public and the intergenerational experience. BHA identified the need to encourage community participation among these artists as well as create educational opportunities in the creative arts. The Andrew Bayne Memorial Library was chosen as the pilot library sites because of their enthusiasm for intergenerational activities as well as their strong local connection with populations of youth and older adults.

BHA solicited volunteer artists for the pilot program and has continued to post a call for BHA artists as well as to the larger Pittsburgh art community each year as the project expands. As a partner, BHA also provides gallery space at no cost for the collaborative art exhibits which culminate the six week program. BHA artists curate the exhibits and share their expertise in the arrangement of art prior to the opening. ACLA and BHA share the expense of light refreshments at the exhibits. The Friends of Bayne Library Andrew Bayne Library have been generous in their support of the program and supply art materials each year.

How did/do you promote it? 

Promotion of the program occurs in a number of ways. The Brew House Association works with member artists and the greater Pittsburgh art community to attract new teaching artists and publicize the gallery exhibit across the region. Each hosting library publicizes the program within their community via their Summer Reading Club promotional materials, school visits, senior centers, book clubs, local artist groups, electronic events calendars, and websites.

Describe the actual service/event/collection/workshop. 

This series includes sculpting, collage, drawing, fabrics, acrylic painting, watercolor painting and a variety of mixed-media. Each 1.5-2 hour weekly workshop featured one artist and his or her media, exposing participants to a variety of shared experiences. Each summer the works of participants and workshop artists have been exhibited professionally in the Brew House Space 101 Gallery for a Sunday afternoon exhibit.

What were the results? Did the library do anything to extend or expand it? 

Over 60 works were included in the exhibit and over fifty people visited the two hour gallery exhibit, coming from over 15 county zip codes. Because of the success of this pilot, the program was replicated in four libraries during the summer of 2008 as Catch the Art Bug and in the summer of 2009 and 2011 as Create Together with expanded 2-hour workshops and a collaborative art exhibit.

“Please keep this program going. There are a lot of young creative minds out there that just need a nudge!” — Older adult participant

Create Together was the genesis for the ACLA Intergenerational Academy, which has grown to include more art programs, a poetry program called “Poetry Together,” movement programs called “Yoga Together” and “Move Together,” a writing program called “Stories Together,” and the intergenerational book club groups. ACLA is very excited to continue creating programs with fantastic community partners, and looks forward to the creation of a tool-kit for libraries interested in starting their own intergenerational series.

What was the response from the community?

“The children were just so creative and filled with excitement to participate in something with a grown up. This imagination just took hold and they burst with different artistic ideas.” — Older adult participant

As an intergenerational program, older and younger participants are brought together in pairs as partners on this endeavor in the arts. Participants are encouraged to attend all sessions and asked to attend at least five of the six sessions for intergenerational partner pairs to be consistent throughout the program. While focusing on the methods of the media, participants interact with each other beginning with what they are creating and followed by consulting and sharing beyond the artistic process.

The program has shown the following: participants demonstrating personal connections between each other, looking forward to weekly programs and shared activities, and responding to new interactions and information. Local libraries, artists and community members are introduced to intergenerational programming and see its impact. Over the course of the program there have been over 100 participants including more than 50 older adults. In the case of Andrew Bayne Memorial Library, some participants return each year. Some participants returned in subsequent summers. Teaching artists were eager to return to the program. In addition, the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library led the program locally, helped by a corps of older adult volunteers who shared their artistic talents with the community.

Click to learn more about:

Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA)
Andrew Bayne Memorial Library
Brew House Association (BHA)

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