Better Aging Through Art

penelope project cover

Changing our perceptions of aging is at the heart of The Penelope Project: An Arts-Based Odyssey to Change Elder Care, and it’s in the heart of coeditor Anne Basting MA’90. She’s earned a 2016 MacArthur “genius” grant for her work as an author, playwright, founder and president of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, UW–Milwaukee theater professor, and founder and coordinator of Creative Trust Milwaukee. Each MacArthur fellow receives a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000.

Anne Basting

Anne Basting

The book follows theater professionals, university students, volunteers, and experts in education, long-term care, and arts practice who joined residents, family members, and staff at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin’s Luther Manor continuum-of-care facility. There they embarked on a challenging but transformative two-year journey to examine Homer’s The Odyssey from the perspective of Penelope, who waited for 20 years for her husband, Odysseus, to return from the Trojan War. The participants then combined theater, movement, poetry, music, and visual arts to stage Basting’s play Finding Penelope throughout Luther Manor. In engaging all, the production transcended the conventional limits of age, physical ability, cognitive status, and a regulated setting.

The Penelope Project boldly seeks to make late life and waiting — as Penelope waited — a time of learning and creativity. This book is its practical, step-by-step guide and a lively, candid, inspiring, and poignant project assessment that shows the essential roles that inclusion and the arts play in our well-being as we age.

A 371 Productions documentary film called Penelope follows Finding Penelope from planning to performance. Basting discussed it on Wisconsin Public Television’s Director’s Cut in June 2014.


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Published in the Winter 2016 issue


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