In the winter of 2015 the Arizona Commission on the Arts issued a call for applicants to a very special professional development program. Of the dozens of candidates who applied, 10 teaching artists were selected to participate in the AZ Creative Aging Teaching Artist Institute, the first programmatic module of the three year AZ Creative Aging initiative, funded by a grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

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. Inspired by ArtSage ( and other national models, the Institute was developed around the philosophies of person-centered care, a process-based approach, and cultural responsiveness.

10 teaching artists, representing a diverse array of backgrounds and approaches, were selected to participate in the first AZ Creative Aging Teaching Artist Institute.



Trisha Burrough

Shari Keith

Ann Morton

Kelly Nelson

Jia Oak Baker

Christy Puetz

Angelina Ramirez

Toni Robinson

Susan Southard

Allyson Yoder

Click here to learn more about the members of the inaugural cohort.

A pair of master teaching artists provided ongoing training and one-on-one mentorship to the members of the inaugural cohort.


Elizabeth Johnson is a choreographer, dancer, and educator with a focus in socially engaged dance practices. Elizabeth connects communities through choreography, creating dance that promotes civic dialogue, and designing participatory experiences that apply artistic practices in multiple contexts. She has a particular interest in working with youth and elders, developing embodied structures for science learning, and promoting leadership development through the arts. Elizabeth holds a BA in Dance with a minor in Theater from Connecticut College and a MFA from Arizona State University. She has studied at London Contemporary Dance School, taught and performed internationally, and was the Associate Artistic Director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in Metro DC for over a decade.

She worked at Arizona State University for five years as the Coordinator of Socially Engaged Practice, collaborating with an interdisciplinary team to create new curricula focused on training artists to work in, and engage with, diverse communities. She is currently based in Chicago and working with Columbia College Chicago and Dance Exchange while doing projects with Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Hubbard Street Dance, and Mesa Arts Center.


Tessa Windt completed a BFA in Studio at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and graduate studies in Ceramics at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Exhibitions include ‘meanwhile’ at ThreeWalls, Chicago, ‘Misdemeanor’ at Spaces, Cleveland, ‘Gestures’ at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, ‘Gravite:  Bas Jan Ader’ at Dazibao, Montreal, ‘Hard Twist -­‐ New Twist’ at the Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, and ‘Ps&Qs’ at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, ‘Arizona Biennial 2011’ at the Tucson Museum of Art, and ‘Culture of Curation’ an online exhibition at Culturehall. She has held teaching appointments at the Ohio State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Arizona State University.

Alongside her studio practice, Windt also initiates participatory projects, including Rainbow Sightings, an ongoing online archive of images of rainbows, and Parcel Post, a 6-­site  community­‐based project in which 60 older adults living across the state of North Carolina collaborated on 60 artworks. Most recently Windt has worked with the Mesa Arts Center on their Creative Aging Outreach program, developing and coordinating community-­based projects with older adults at several sites around Mesa. Projects include Hand Made Story Lab, a sculptural and video project using faceted laser-­cut geometric chipboard blocks to combine formal abstraction with stories elicited by the creative process, and Words of Wisdom, a mixed-‐media individual and collaborative project based on the sayings and phrases that have supported participants throughout their lives.



Each month, the cohort gathered together for an intensive day-long session featuring leading national presenters.

Anne Basting focuses her teaching and creative research on community-engaged performance. With a PhD in Theatre Studies from University of Minnesota, Basting is both a creative artist and scholar. She is the author of three books, including Forget Memory: Creating better lives for people with dementia (2009, Johns Hopkins UP), and dozens of articles and essays in a wide range of journals. Her most recent book, The Penelope Project (co-edited with Maureen Towey and Ellie Nocun), is due out in May from University of Iowa Press. Basting is the recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Brookdale National Fellowship and numerous major grants for her scholarly and creative endeavors. She speaks internationally on the integration of the arts into aging services and long-term care. Her creative work includes TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, The Penelope Project, the Islands of Milwaukee, The Crossings, and Slightly Bigger Women, which she co-wrote and directed in 2015. Basting founded and continues to facilitate the Creative Trust, an alliance to foster life-long learning through the arts. She is currently coordinating the Creative Trust’s Student Artist in Residence Program, which brings Peck School of the Arts students into care communities and aging services programs across Milwaukee.

Maria Genné, MEd, Founder and Director of Kairos Alive!, is a dancer, choreographer and educator, recognized as a pioneering leader in the intergenerational interactive participatory performing arts, and arts and health fields. In 2001, Maria developed the award winning program, The Dancing Heart™, featured in the PBS documentary, Arts and the Mind. This research based dance, music and story theater program is designed to tap into the artistry and creativity of older adults and invite them to be collaborators in the artistic process of dance, music and storytelling as well as create measurable health benefits for participants, and cost of care savings for providers.

Liz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker. Described by the Washington Post as “the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art,” her dance/theater works have been seen throughout the United States and abroad. Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation between artistic media, and intensive collaboration with dancers, communities, and thinkers from diverse disciplines. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976 and has cultivated the company’s unique multi-generational ensemble into a leading force in contemporary dance.

Gary Glazner is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP), and author of Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care, Health Professions Press, 2014. Glazner is an internationally recognized speaker and expert on using poetry with people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project has been featured on NBC’s Today show, NPR’s Weekend Edition, Voice of America, and New Zealand National Radio, has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, and was awarded the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award in the category of Community Engagement.

Jorge Merced is Associate Artistic Director of New York’s Pregones Theater. An acclaimed theater artist, Jorge trained with Osvaldo Dragún, Eugenio Barba, Miguel Rubio and Teresa Ralli (EITALC 89 – Cuba), Augusto Boal (Brazil & France), and at the Alvin Ailey Center (NY). He is a board member for the National Center for Creative Aging and recently helped develop their Creative Caregiving Guide.

Jane Tygesson is the Founder of Opening Doors and author of the manual Opening Doors to Memory & Imagination to help museums create programs that engage the senses and spark conversation for people with memory loss. She co-founded the “Discover Your Story” program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) in 2008, which has brought more than 3,000 adults in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s into the museum with their families, friends, and care partners for interactive tours.

Coming Soon