ART@HAND Partnership Spotlight: Jones Harrison Intergenerational Activities

Creativity brings people together. It moves people on an emotional level; it makes the mind and heart happy and healthy. It is such a joy to witness this taking place each week at Jones Harrison
—Susan Obermeyer, NCC Teaching Artist

NCC began a new partnership with Jones Harrison Senior Living in September of 2019 after Cindy Iverson from Jones Harrison reached out in the fall of 2018 to discuss including an ART@HAND intergenerational partnership in a grant they were applying for. The grant was awarded and, one year later, clay activities commenced. With grant-funded programming, there is often substantial lag time from initial discussions to enacting the program.

Every Wednesday for twelve weeks, two NCC teaching artists, Susan Obermeyer and Chloe Rizzo, worked with ceramics students from Breck High School and residents of Jones Harrison Senior Living in Minneapolis. The students came to Jones Harrison to make projects with the residents, build relationships, and learn through helping the residents create in clay. Obermeyer observed how a resident with more severe limitations and a high school student worked side by side. She noted how each week “they discussed the project and brainstormed together to determine how their project should look. They are such a joy to watch.”

It is often said that the best way to learn is to teach, and this partnership is a great example of such. The students from Breck came to the program with some clay knowledge but learned new techniques, forms, and terms from the teaching artists. This dynamic allowed teaching artists to spend more time building relationships with the participants because questions that arose were being answered collaboratively by the intergenerational clay peers. Rizzo was impressed by the way “the high school students use the methods we model to assist the residents, so that they could make their own work and foster the residents' independence.” The students learned about necessary accommodations and alternative making techniques from the teaching artists and helped guide participants with an impairment—whether that be sight, manual dexterity, or another barrier—through the process.

Obermeyer and Rizzo worked together for this larger group program and delighted in the experience. Rizzo said that she has enjoyed “watching the students develop more confidence in their communication and ability each session. At the beginning we [the teaching artists] initiated conversation with the residents, and most students were pretty quiet. By December, every table was filled with lively conversation, and several of the residents would tease and joke with us.”

Jones Harrison staff member, Amanda Beehler, reflected, “In the beginning, some residents expressed to me their ‘lack of artistic ability’ and were intimidated by the class. Residents who attended the first two weeks of class had such an enjoyable experience that they helped encourage other residents to attend the future classes. I have observed a strong engagement between the residents, students, and teachers. There have been many smiles, laughter, and most definitely an increase in self-confidence in the residents. Overall, the Northern Clay Center partnership has been an incredible social and learning activity.”

If you would like to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programing, please contact Alison Beech, Community Engagement Manager, at 612.339.8007 x313 or