Ellen Michelson Named Inside Philanthropy’s Art Funder of the Year

Ellen Michelson, Founder and President of E.A. Michelson Philanthropy, was named Arts Funder of the Year by Inside Philanthropy. The publication noted, “Older Americans rarely have access to arts education opportunities, despite their myriad benefits. Kudos to Minneapolis-based philanthropist Ellen Michelson, who is working to change that.” E.A. Michelson Philanthropy is thrilled to see Inside Philanthropy recognize the value of arts learning for older adults. Learn more by clicking here.


American Society on Aging: Ageism Toolkit

The American Society on Aging has created several anti-ageism resources to help support older adults’ recognition in the arts while expanding society’s understanding of cross-cultural views on aging. You can check out several resources on their website as well as their ageism toolkit here.


Indiana Arts Commission expands Creative Aging programming and funding

The Indiana Arts Commission recently announced an expansion of Lifelong Arts, a creative aging program in partnership with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and E.A. Michelson Philanthropy. Lifelong Arts for Arts Organizations joins existing programs for artists and aging services providers in partnership with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Division of Aging to offer creative experiences for older adults. Four arts organizations will be selected to participate, forming a cohort that will learn and grow in creative aging practice.

More information can be found here.



New Grants

We’re pleased to announce more than $500k in new grant awards by E.A. Michelson Philanthropy to the organizations listed below. You can also see the full list of our extraordinary grantees here.


Discovery Arts
Children’s Theatre Company
Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts
Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies
MacPhail Center for Music
Minneapolis Institute of Art

Humanity Arts
MacPhail Center for Music
Touchstone Mental Health

Vitality Arts
MacPhail Center for Music



Age-Inclusive Language Resources

How we think and communicate about aging matters. Ageism is everywhere in America. This article shares tips and resources from the Gerontological Society of America on how to understand and adopt age-inclusive language.

Be sure to check out the Frameworks Institute. They share actionable suggestions to help counteract ageist communications.

We hope you will join us in adopting age-inclusive language to combat negative connotations about aging.

16 Art Museums Receive Grants to Support New Creative Aging Programs

E.A. Michelson Philanthropy announced today that it has awarded more than $3 million in new grants to 16 art museums across the United States, a continuation of its investment in creative aging programs that are an essential part of addressing the coming demographic wave of older Americans. Targeted to support the creation of new programs aimed at museum audiences who are 55 years of age and older, these creative aging classes recognize the many benefits—social, emotional, and physical—of engaging older adults in the process of artistic creation.

The museums receiving funds as part of the second phase of the Vitality Arts Project for Art Museums are: Akron Art Museum; ASU Art Museum; Boise Art Museum; Bronx Museum of the Arts; Frist Art Museum; Heard Museum; Honolulu Museum of Art; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Neuberger Museum of Art; Philbrook Museum of Art; Queens Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Tampa Museum of Art; and the Toledo Museum of Art. Their hands-on art making programs for older adults are expected to be available to the public between May 2023 and August 2024. Each museum is developing these art-making programs to address a growing awareness of ageism in our society and in recognition of the role that art museums can play in providing creative aging opportunities to their community.

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This new group of 16 museums builds on the foundation’s July 2022 launch of the Vitality Arts Project for Art Museums initiative—and more than a decade of investment in developing and funding these programs at other community organizations. Originally started by the foundation with targeted grants in 2013, E.A. Michelson Philanthropy has since invested more than $21 million for advocacy, training and funding of creative aging programs at art and history museums, performing arts organizations, botanical gardens, and community centers. Museum consultants Brian Kennedy and András Szántó are advising the foundation on its work to address ageism in American art museums.

Museums that participate in the Vitality Arts grant program receive an array of support beyond funding. In particular, museum staff will receive training and technical assistance in program design and implementation from E.A. Michelson's long-term partner, Lifetime Arts. Founded in 2008, Lifetime Arts is the national leader in the development and dissemination of creative aging capacity building services and best practices. They work to advance the field with public libraries, museums, senior service organizations, community arts organizations and teaching artists, as well as the systems and institutions that support them.

“Our collective belief system has evolved to prioritize the interests of youth and younger adults and to under-value and overlook older adults,” said Ellen Michelson, founder and president of E.A. Michelson Philanthropy. “The creative aging programs we help to develop and implement are rooted in a recognition that older adults across all races, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic groups deserve to be acknowledged as vibrant and contributing members of the American population, who both need and deserve creative, educational outlets and the opportunity to build and maintain their social networks.”

This round of grants brings to 25 the number of leading American art museums serving their communities with such programs, enabling programs for older adults while taking advantage of the diverse collections and creative potential of art museums. Among the anti-ageism ideas and programs being developed by this new group of 16 art museums are:

  • The 2021 opening of Mirabella, a senior living and retirement community located on the ASU campus, provides an opportunity for Tempe’s ASU Art Museum. The museum plans to launch its Creative Aging for Lifelong Learners (CALL) Workshop Series this spring, with different—free—programs focused on activities such as contemporary craft, printmaking, and storytelling.
  • The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota, has long served a population of older adults and the demand for programs has only grown with an influx of residents and visitors to Florida. Its Vitality Arts grants will make it possible to develop new programs that specifically provide active creative opportunities to these audiences. The museum’s Circus Arts workshop will introduce participants to various aspects of the circus, from costume design to advertising posters to performance, while in the Moving With The Ringling program, participants will explore artistic movement with a local dance and movement troupe.
  • The Queens Museum is located in the most demographically diverse community in the U.S. Building on its strong local relationships—and its eclectic collections, which include an important World’s Fair archive—the Museum will develop creative aging workshops such as Cooking and Community, in partnership with La Jornada and the Cultural Food Pantry, and Portrait Painting, an opportunity for participants to think about how they view themselves, their connections to their heritage, and their role and perceptions within their local communities.
  • The Philbrook Museum of Art has an array of programs emphasizing intergenerational engagement. For the Vitality Arts initiative, the Museum’s Stay Gold Sessions will emphasize the intersection of art making and nature as a source of inspiration. The program will use the Museum’s studio classrooms, art galleries, and acres of formal and informal gardens as spaces for drawing and painting, creative writing, collage, textiles, and printmaking, often in combination, while also seeking to expand its relationships with local organizations and residences focused on older adults.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is one of the largest art museums in the United States, serving a population that is demographically diverse in nearly every way. The museum’s program What I Know and When I Knew It, will focus on a diverse group of older adults from Houston’s Third Ward—a predominantly African American community located a short distance from the MFAH campus—with workshops in storytelling combined with classes in drawing, painting, or printmaking, building towards a larger goal of capturing their personal narratives and community experiences.

Each Vitality Arts grantee is eligible for up to $250,000 in support of programming and program development costs. Last summer’s launch provided more than $2 million in funding to nine American art museums—Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts—with programs that began in fall 2022. This combined group of 25 art museums joins more than 50 of the foundation’s current and past Vitality Arts grantees, whose programs have engaged thousands of older adults across the country.

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Legislative Alert: Executive Order on the Arts

The Biden-Harris administration recently released an Executive Order on Promoting the Arts, the Humanities, and Museum and Library Services. This executive order is notable in its confirmation that the arts are, “essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our nation” and that “equity, accessibility, and opportunities for all Americans, particularly in underserved communities” are key ingredients of cultural vitality. Learn more here.

Next Avenue Highlights Museums

We are proud to support Next Avenue, a Vitality Arts grantee, and their 2022 series, “On Exhibit: A New Look at Museums.” With more than 10 compelling museum articles released this year, Next Avenue introduced readers to fascinating programs, collections, artists, curators, and spaces – including several museums that have adapted to the challenges of elevating the works of artists and communities that were previously not celebrated. Of particular interest is the “Next Avenue Museum Challenge,” encouraging readers to incorporate museum visits (both in person and virtual) into their daily lives via a “Museum Passport.” Click here to learn more about how older adults can take advantage of the rich opportunities offered by art museums in communities nationwide.

Experiencing Ageism

We hear these words over and over: Anti-aging, senior moment, geezer, little old lady, age-appropriate, old fogey. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Make no mistake. These words mean: Uncool, unhip, unattractive, incompetent, in the way, slow. Unadaptable and unable to learn.

Ageism kicks in especially early for women. In her 30s, American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal was told she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man!

As we began to research creative aging, we really saw ageism for the first time. Its tentacles reach into every aspect of life in America. Once you recognize it, you find it everywhere.

You hear condescension (“Hello, dearie,” “What can I get you, young lady?,” “Hurry up, grandma.”).

A typical marketing survey asks:

What is your age?

☐ Under 18
☐ 18-24
☐ 25-34
☐ 35-44
☐ 45-54
☐ 54 and above

The first 50 years are broken into 5 subgroups; the second 50 years are lumped into one. The 55+ group has suddenly become undifferentiated and invisible.

We may not have recognized the impact of these dismissive, ageist words yet, but older adults feel it. In a survey of people ages 60 and older, nearly 80 percent said they had experienced ageism personally.

When you’ve heard these messages your entire life, they become self-fulfilling prophecies. “I lost my car keys - I’m afraid I’m losing my memory.” (I lost my car keys - and sometimes my car - in college, but I didn’t think it was because of my age.).

So naturally, people 55+ begin to live the invisible life, trying not to interject opinions or show up in places that cater primarily to younger people. They start to limit opportunities for growth, which in turn limits the experienced and rich contributions from which our communities could benefit.

Ageism is even a public health issue, says the World Health Organization: "Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered – like racism or sexism. These attitudes lead to the marginalisation of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being."

Ageism is still socially acceptable. We’re bombarded with millions of dollars of advertising for “anti-aging” products. Think about it: can you imagine ads for  “anti-women” or “anti-black” products?

Is it possible to stop hating our future selves?

Thankfully, activists are naming this behavior and giving us the tools to push back against it. Our friend Ashton Applewhite, arguably the most prominent anti-ageism voice in America today, introduced us to the topic. Her TED talk, “Let’s End Ageism,” has been viewed more than 1.3 million times. Her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, has just been released to wide acclaim, and thousands of readers follow her blog, With a sharp wit and a keen eye, Applewhite points out innumerable examples of ageism and its impact.

We can no longer afford to marginalize this growing population. Within the next decade, nearly 1 of 4 Americans will be over 65. Most will remain independent and cognitively fit well into their 80s and beyond. Many will live to be over 100. Why lose the intellectual and social capital of these people? It’s not just hurtful, it’s wasteful.

What can you do? Be alert to ageist comments and push back (politely, of course!). Comment on ads and storylines that are overtly ageist. Talk about the topic with family and friends. Write a letter to the editor. Most rewarding of all – dare to truly connect. You never know who you’ll find behind that wrinkled and spotted facade: Someone fascinating. Someone unique. Someone who might actually be cool.

If you’re already an older adult, push conventional wisdom out the door. Learn something brand new. Take improv or dance classes. Join a choir. Write your memoir. Ignite your creativity and drown out all those ageist words.

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Gaining Momentum: A Communications Toolkit to Understand Aging

“How can the field of aging help build a better understanding of aging, ageism, and what it will take to create a more age-integrated society?” To best answer this question, the FrameWorks Institute developed an evidence-based toolkit to help advocates reframe aging in America.

The FrameWorks Institute is a nonprofit “think tank” that develops research-based communication strategies to frame and garner the public’s interest in social and scientific issues. Commissioned by a group of national aging organizations and funders, the FrameWorks Institute created “Gaining Momentum.” This research-based digital collection of resources, examples and guidelines is helping advance the conversation about the aging population.

The digital toolkit provides several useful tools to talk about ageism and older adults, including:

  • A guide of communication themes to avoid and alternatives to use.
  • A frame brief that lays out an approach to change public thinking about aging in America.
  • Tools to anticipate public thinking, including: visual summaries of research findings, a "Swamp Drop” game to learn how to use productive frames in communications, strategic framing charts and frequently asked questions about aging.
  • Sample Communication materials for blog posts, Facebook posts, Twitter exercises and downloadable communication assets.

We strongly encourage you to check out the many resources and research reports in the FrameWorks Institute communication toolkit to raise awareness of ageism. For more information, please visit