Arizona Commission on the Arts

We imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts is an agency of the State of Arizona whose mission is to create opportunities for all Arizonans to participate in and experience the arts. To that end, we deliver grants and support to cultivate sustainable arts communities and promote statewide public access to arts and cultural activities.

The Mesa Arts Center Creative Aging program seeks to uplift individual creative expression for older adults. Through artist in residence programs in adult resource centers, adult day cares and adult living communities, participants draw on their life stories, explored through movement, story, dance, and engagement in art making as a tool for expression. Led by professional teaching artists, the goal of Mesa Arts Center is to engage older adults physically and mentally in creative activities that enhance self-esteem, morale, and overall health.

AZ Creative Aging is an ambitious and comprehensive initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts that will build a creative aging infrastructure to enhance quality of life for older Arizonans. With funding from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, over three years, AZ Creative Aging will provide an expansive learning platform, which includes:

Practical Training: a comprehensive Teaching Artist Institute, an arts organization capacity-building program, and training workshops for aging service provider staff.

Network Building: network and relationship-building opportunities between the arts and aging/healthcare service sectors, such as a statewide Leadership Summit on Arts and Aging.

Pilot Programs: the initiative will field test models with a cohort of aging and healthcare service organizations to gauge efficacy before taking those programs to scale.

Overall, AZ Creative Aging will provide training to teaching artists, arts organizations and aging/healthcare service providers, support the development of high-quality arts programs for older adults and embed creative aging knowledge and best practices in the community.


AZ Creative Aging Teaching Artists

The first programmatic module of the three year AZ Creative Aging initiative, the Teaching Artist Institute is a comprehensive training program that introduces teaching artists to the variety of settings, programs, and partners that make up the creative aging field, and provides skills-building activities for participants to attain the specialized knowledge needed to work successfully with older adults. 10 teaching artists participated in the inaugural Teaching Artist Institute.

Lifelong Arts Engagement Grants

Lifelong Arts Engagement Grants enhance the work of community and social service organizations/ governmental entities through partnership projects with professional teaching artists and/or arts organizations. A wide range of projects are eligible, including those which use the arts and creative expression to improve quality of life for older adults.


  • Proportion of population 65+ will increase from 14% to 21% by 2050
  • 105% change from 2010 to 2020 with aging population growth
  • By 2050, there will be 2,422,186 individuals age 65+

Information from Arizona Department of Health Services

Up Next!

Year 2 AZ Creative Aging programs will be launching in Fall 2016. Stay tuned for more information.

Creative Aging Point Person

Alex Nelson, Senior Director of Grants and Programs

Alex Nelson is the Senior Director of Grants and Programs at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In this role, she develops funding programs and partnerships to advance the creative aging field in Arizona. With experience as a teaching artist, museum educator, and program manager, she has also served the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ Arts Education Advisory Group and the VSA Arizona and Emerging Arts Leaders Phoenix's board.