FIA launches Art Spark! workshop for Flint residents living with Alzheimer’s Disease

Gray Matters is produced in partnership with Valley Area Agency on Aging (VAAA) and focuses on our aging population and the people who care for them.
FLINT, Michigan — In September 2023, the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA) launched a new workshop series designed for people living with mild to moderate memory loss and their care partners. 

“Art Spark! is designed to keep participants actively engaged in their communities by providing experiences that stimulate conversations, provide peer support, and inspire creativity through creative engagement, workshops, and programs, while raising awareness of the importance of the Arts in healthy aging,” shared Jennifer Essenmacher, FIA’s Docent and Access Coordinator.

According to Essenmacher, the program provides opportunities for dialogue and reflection through art engagement within the FIA galleries as well as experimentation with several different mediums and materials through art-making workshops.

Because Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias are known to diminish a person's ability to communicate over time, FIA’s Art Spark! workshop series is aimed at helping to build a sense of community and support between Flint residents suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and their caregivers.

In 2023, The Alzheimer's Association projected that over 6 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and nearly 190,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s Disease in the state of Michigan alone. 

“In these workshops, people with memory loss and their care partners can experience connection through making art together and join others sharing a similar experience,” said Essenmacher.

Participants can also look forward to “learning from and interacting with artists from FIA's Art School and Education department on a number of different mediums. Additionally, the March workshop will be a demonstration in our Hot Shop where participants will get a private demonstration on hot glass techniques,” said Essenmacher.

The lobby area inside the Flint Institute of Arts.Art-making workshops will be offered once monthly from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with a coffee social starting at 9:30 a.m. Pre-registration is required and the workshops will be limited to 20 participants. No previous art experience is required for these hands-on experiences.

Wheelchairs and walkers are welcomed, and there is no cost to participate in the program or the social engagements, thanks to the program sponsorship of the Nartel Family Foundation.

Upcoming Workshop Schedule:

February 27 - Printmaking 
March 29 - Glass Demonstration in the Hot Shop
April 26 - Glass Fusing
May 31 - Watercolor

Each workshop corresponds with a gallery tour for the same month.

Upcoming Gallery Tour Schedule:

February 15 - Graphics Gallery
March 21 - "Fragile Bodies: Figures in Glass and Clay"
April 18 - Paperweight Art Collection
May 16 - Johnson Gallery

While Essenmacher expressed the many excitements this program has brought to FIA, she is most excited about seeing how community members participate in the program. 

According to Essenmacher, “I enjoy having the opportunity to sit and talk with them over a donut before the program begins. I love the stories that are shared during the tours and the excitement they express over the experience. Best of all, it's wonderful to see the community that is being built through this program.”

While she is excited to see how these workshops impact community members, the opportunity to create these experiences hits home for Essenmacher because she also has a family member living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I'm so excited that my grandmother will be participating in the workshops. She wasn't interested in participating in the gallery tours, but she is very excited for the hot glass demo and for the watercolor workshop,” Essenmacher shared. “This is another outlet for people to be creative, to experience something new, and spend time with a family member or friend that isn't focused on their memory loss,” 

For more information about the ArtSpark! monthly workshop series, visit
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Read more articles by Brianna Nargiso.