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Cincinnati Nonprofit Spotlight: Creative Aging

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On any given day, seniors throughout our region are singing, laughing, moving, creating, remembering, sharing, and strengthening motor skills because of more than 100 professional artists, performers and educators who are contracted through a unique Cincinnati area nonprofit organization called Creative Aging.

Creative Aging is a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that contracts over 100 professional artists, performers and educators to enrich the lives of seniorsIn 2014, the organization sponsored closed to 400 programs (this year anticipating 500 to 600 programs) at member facilities serving more than 15,000 older adults. Since its beginning more than 30 years ago, Creative Aging has provide well over 6,800 programs and enriched the lives of over 294,000 seniors.

That is a lot of IMPACT!

Bev Ross, executive director, told me a lot of what they do is in a group setting. “It is magical in how our programs reconnect people and their environment,” she said, remembering, “There was a man who had Parkinson’s Disease whose movements were real choppy but he could dance with you without any problems. A lot of times our performers would sound out a beat for him. He would walk better when there was a rhythm to it.”

Just a sample of the types of programs Creative Aging offers:

Art programs  like painting and drawing, seashell crafts, and color and shape exploration.

History and culture programs that take people on virtual tours using a “memories” theme to show both “old” and current pictures of historic and memorable Cincinnati landmarks as well as a narrative that highlights the history and current use of the site.

Music programs with a variety of artists, vocalists and instruments.

Storytelling, outreach programs, and holiday happenings.

Wellness programs including yoga, ballet, tai chi and more.

“Seniors think they can’t do it but they are really proud of what they accomplish. If they have depression, for the hour that we are there, they forget about it and just enjoy the moment,” said Bev.

I have seen firsthand how interactive, creative and educational programs enrich the lives of older adults. What a wonderful gift from all of these artists!

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Mural Helps Celebrate Amberley Village 75th Anniversary

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To celebrate Amberley Village’s 75th anniversary, a committee of Amberley residents collaborated with the nonprofit Kennedy Heights Arts Center to create a very To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Amberley Village in Cincinnati worked with artist Cedric Michael Cox and residents to create this permanent mural.special piece of art that would serve as a permanent welcome to visitors and residents.

The very talented artist, Cedric Michael Cox (one of our CINspirational People), was selected to work with a committee to design the outdoor mural that will be displayed on a wall adjacent to Amberley’s Municipal Building.

“When I met with the committee members and toured the historic parks and pastures of the neighborhood, it was clear to me that the people of Amberley enjoyed its natural untouched beauty.  The homes and public buildings in Amberley don’t live on top of nature they live within nature.  The natural rural environment is the core to its everlasting charm,” Cedric wrote in his blog.

In July, he and Amberley residents brought the concepts to life. Many hours were spent collaborating, painting and getting to know others in their community. To see more photos of them working on it, please click here to visit Cedric’s blog.

“I wanted this mural to celebrate the community’s respect for wildlife and nature. Whoever looks upon this wall should feel invited to be a part of this To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Amberley Village in Cincinnati worked with artist Cedric Michael Cox and residents to create this permanent mural.place where man and wildlife live in harmonious respect,” wrote Cedric.

You are invited!

The dedication for the mural will be
Sunday, August 16, from 6 to 6:30 p.m.
at 7149 Ridge Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45237

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My Thoughts On The 25th Anniversary Of The ADA

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Twenty five years ago, July 26, the historic Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law. It was the first federal legislation that broke down the barriers, at least from a physical standpoint, that had served to exclude people because they did things differently from the norm. The law brought to the forefront a consciousness of creating spaces where everyone can access. Wider doorways and wheelchair ramps are some of the mandated changes seen in buildings and curb cuts throughout the country.

The law was a magnificent first step toward change. According to the ADA, no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal participation of goods, services, facilities, privileges, and accommodations.

The thing that I want to remind everyone is that, while laws and these physical changes are important, true inclusion begins and ends with each one of us. Disabilities affect people of all race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, and age. Disabilities may be visible or they may be invisible. And disabilities may impact any one of us in any given moment of our lives.

But disabilities do not define people.

a quote about inclusion and differences by Lisa DesatnikStill, people who experience disability are among the most socially and physically isolated. They are more vulnerable as targets of bullying. They are often misunderstood, and their intelligence and feelings very much underestimated.

I have always been someone fully aware of the importance of including and valuing others; however, my work with disability related organizations has heightened my awareness of this impact on individuals and on communities.

I have heard about stories and know people personally who have felt the pain of being excluded, and of not being given the opportunity to realize their full potential. Students who have been admonished by their peers. Parents who have feared adopting from the United States because of policies that could take their child away, for no other reason than their mother and father do things differently. People of working age who want to contribute and are very capable of contributing (not to mention have valuable skills) but are working in a job not up to their abilities because of limitations put on them by others.

But I have also seen the beauty in watching how kids…and adults grow…when they lose sight of each other’s differences and see each other as human beings. All of us, no matter our religion, culture, ethnicity, color or mode of doing, communicating and experiencing things grow when we include each other. We learn to see situations from new perspectives, we appreciate the gifts of our diversity, and together we are capable of accomplishing great things.

In a wonderfully spoken guest editorial to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kat Lyons, advocacy coordinator for The Center for Independent Living Options Inc., shared, “We (people with disabilities) see ourselves as fully human, with strengths and weaknesses like any human. We know that any human may, in an instant, join our ranks.

We are not unable, just because we are disabled. We are just people, and we’d like to get to know you. We’d like for you to know and include us.”

Instead of simply applauding the ADA on its merits, let us see the ADA as a stepping stone toward a world of togetherness for all of us, a world that is better because we are a part of it.

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CINspirational People: Santa Ono

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CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!

GTGA Intern Liza Hartke, a student at our city’s great University of Cincinnati, was so excited when she reached out to President Santa Ono for a CINspirational People interview – and he wrote back with such thoughtful answers…one more reason to have huge respect for him. He always makes time for U.C. students. His answers as to why he came to U.C. and what he values about it are truly heartfelt. Cincinnati is lucky to have him here!

 

GTGA Intern Liza Hartke: What was your biggest motivator for wanting to be president of the University of Cincinnati?
CINspirational People profile: University of Cincinnati President Santa OnoSanta: My selection as president of University of Cincinnati was unexpected. I had served as provost of the University for a little over two years when my predecessor Gregory Williams resigned suddenly. The Board of Trustees asked me to serve as interim president, and I of course accepted due to my love of the institution and especially for the faculty, staff and students of the University.

The search committee for the permanent president of UC asked me why I would want to serve as the 28th president. The answer was simple: that I love the ethos of the institution, it’s connectivity with the city of Cincinnati, and its mission of transforming the lives of the next generation.

I don’t think many people fully appreciate how remarkable UC is on the landscape of higher education. It is considered one of a handful of institutions that have truly innovated how college students are educated.  That innovative spirit pervades the institution.

I think a good case could be made that no other institution integrates better classroom teaching with the real world experience.

The biggest motivator for me is to build upon that tradition and to ensure that we continue to create new knowledge and transform the lives of students that matriculate at the University.

GTGA Intern Liza: What is your favorite thing about being the president?
Santa: My favorite aspect of being UC’s president is interacting with faculty, students and staff. The work that occurs on our campus on a daily basis is simply stunning. Through this work, people are living their dreams. I view my primary mission as facilitating that work and helping our faculty, staff and students realize their dreams.

GTGA Intern Liza:What makes the Cincinnati students unique?
Santa: I have had the honor and privilege of working at several fine institutions including: Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of London, and Emory University. There are outstanding students at each of these institutions as well as at hundreds of other colleges and universities around the world.

University of Cincinnati students are amazing in that they approach their studies and work with diligence and enthusiasm but with humility and no sense of entitlement. The quality of their work is second to none. Everywhere I go, CEOs and industry leaders sing the praises of our graduates. Indeed, a just proportionate number of industry leaders are alumni of our great university.

I honestly believe that part of the “secret sauce” of a University of Cincinnati education stems from the diversity of individuals within the institution. That prepares our students to work with very different kinds of individuals to move forward with a complicated project. That ability to communicate across disciplines and between theory and practice prepares our students well to innovate and to lead.

GTGA Intern Liza: What has been the most challenging struggle and how have you overcome it?
Santa: As is probably the response of most university presidents, the biggest challenge involves balancing a large and complex annual budget. Significant portions of that budget are not guaranteed on an annual basis. For example state and federal subsidies and enrollment can change abruptly from year-to-year.

Dealing with this challenge involves careful strategic planning and strong peripheral vision. The CEO of such an institution needs to have multiple plans to deal with various scenarios and needs to think quickly on his or her feet. You also need to surround yourself with a talented team that can help you navigate through unchartered waters.

GTGA Intern Liza: What is a motto you live by and how has it impacted you?
Santa: To whom much is given, much is expected. Luke 12:48

Universities are privileged institutions that exist for the betterment of society. University presidents must set the tone where there is an automatic expectation throughout the institution that we mobilize our resources for the betterment of the community in which we live.

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CINspirational People: Zak Morgan Makes People Smile

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CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!

GTGA Intern Katie Reinstatler enjoyed learning about Cincinnati’s popular children’s entertainer sought after nationwide, Zak Morgan, as she wrote this about him.

 

Wordsmith, musician, storyteller, innovator; these are just a few of the words that come to mind for Zak Morgan, a 2004 Grammy nominee and children’s grammy nominated children's entertainer Zak Morganperformer.  In listening to his music and watching his performances, it quickly became clear to me that he is driven and passionate in his work performing for children. Not only this, but Zak has this presence on stage, in his performances, and in his interactions with others, that is absolutely enthralling. His ability to engage with and connect with his audience, not only through his sheer skill and talent in music and storytelling, but in his sense of humor, his empathy for and understanding of others, and the ease with which he carries himself, has shaped his success, and the passion that is evident in his work.

Growing up, storytelling and wordplay were an integral part of Zak’s life. Zak describes his grandpa George as one of his greatest inspirations, and talks about how the characters from his grandpa’s stories, and the way his grandpa weaved words into marvelous adventures and tales, served as a great inspiration to him. Zak also describes his grandma as an inspiration, citing her as one of the sources of his musical aspirations. She attended the Cincinnati Conservatory and is an accomplished classical singer and pianist. In the answers to our questions (please scroll down to read the Q&A), Zak makes it clear that his grandparents played an integral role in shaping who he has become as a performer and storyteller.

Zak’s love of storytelling, music, and children, make him successful in his role as children’s performer. More than this, though, he is innovative in his creations, and draws much of his inspiration from both Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. He finds humor in the simplistic, knows how to make the audience laugh, enjoy themselves, and find fun in the absurd. Zak’s love for his work radiates outward to those around him. The joy he finds in what he does and his enthusiasm for life and working with children is an absolute joy to see. In his music, in his performances, in his writing, and in his interactions with others, Zak is truly an inspiration.

“The beauty of Morgan’s style is that adults are entertained as well, chuckling along to Morgan’s inventive vocabulary,”
Rick Bird, Cincinnati Enquirer contributor

Our questions for Zak:

GTGA: How has your family been an inspiration to you?
Zak: My grandpa George was a great storyteller.  He made up wonderful stories and characters and on summer nights after swimming in my grandparents pool, my siblings, cousins and I would gather around him and he never disappointed.   Our favorites were Suzy and Joe stories about a big sister and a little brother and the adventures they would have.  I later realized that the characters were based on my grandpa and his big sister Florence.  My third children’s record is a concept album about Suzy and Joe.  My grandma attended the Cincinnati Conservatory and is an accomplished classical singer and pianist.

GTGA: Tell us more about your grandparents and how they influenced what you do and who you are.
Zak: I’ll share with you what I have shared on my website. Grandpa Rooney kissed the Blarney Stone and was the best storyteller I ever met. On summer nights in the 1970’s, he would let my cousins and me stay up past bed time drinking 7-Up and eating Lorna Doones and sherbet while he told us stories about Suzy and Joe, a brother and sister who were always having adventures and getting into trouble. Along with being a marvelous storyteller, Grandpa had many other special gifts. Most memorable were his magnetic feet, which enabled him to walk up the sides of buildings and upside down along the ceiling. He was also very brave and once caught a lion by the ears with his bare hands in his backyard after all of the animals escaped from the zoo.

The most amazing story my grandpa ever told me was about how he met and married Grandma Lucille. In the early 1930s there was a race to see which lucky woman would get to marry Grandpa. If no one caught him, Grandpa would be allowed to stay a bachelor his whole life. Grandpa was a very fast runner and wasn’t worried, but he practiced just in case.

When Grandpa saw the long line of ladies on the day of the race, he knew he would have to run very fast indeed. The starter fired the pistol and as the race progressed, it looked as though Grandpa would win for sure. There were no women in sight as he rounded the last turn. Little did he know that Grandma Lucille had taken a shortcut and was hiding in the bushes near the finish line. At the last second she jumped out of the bushes and onto his back and the rest is history.

Grandpa soon realized how lucky he was that Grandma Lucille had taken the shortcut. She is a glorious grandma who sings like an angel. Each night after Grandpa told us a great story, we would lie in bed and listen to Grandma play the piano and sing downstairs as we fell asleep.

My grandparents are two of my biggest influences and The Candy Machine is in large part a tribute to them.

GTGA: Do you remember when the first time was that you knew you wanted to sing and perform?
grammy nominated children's entertainer Zak Morgan
Zak: I have always had a good ear for music and I think I was three or four and when picked out the melody of Scott Joplin’s Entertainer on my grandparent’s piano, probably in a wet bathing suit.  I went to elementary at Lotspeich.  We had drama class daily in a barn on campus and I LOVED it from the beginning.

GTGA: Who is someone that your career has allowed you the opportunity to meet, who has been a big impact on you and why?
Zak: My career has allowed me to meet many very talented people, some of them very famous.  This has been exciting and lots of fun.  But the biggest impact by far has been the children I’ve met and worked with over the last 16 years.  They remind me what’s important and their wide eyed curiosity, innate goodness, and free imagination without fear of being wrong or being judged has kept me a kid at heart and made me a better person.

GTGA: How do you come up with your music?
Zak: It varies.  I like to write story songs and I’m influenced by Roald Dahl and She Silverstein, my favorite authors when I was growing up.  Some songs are based on my own childhood experiences, others are inspired by books I have read and still others grew out of a simple play on words or double entendre that popped into my head like “when bullfrogs croak,” “the white shark’s chum,” or “fluttered by a flower bed.”

GTGA: What is it that you enjoy most about your work?grammy nominated children's musician Zak Morgan
Zak: Playing with kids.

GTGA: Can you share a story of how you impacted a young person – or how a young person impacted you? (or both)
Zak: Now and then I’ll hear about a child I encouraged or helped in some way and it always moves me.  One child first came to one of my shows when she was four and she was non-verbal.  A song I wrote called The Butterfly helped her turn the corner and start to sing and speak.  I recently bumped into that family and she is a healthy, happy 16 year old.

GTGA: Tell us how you came up with TIODNACI, why it is a message so important to you, and some of the impact you have seen by sharing it.
Zak: I was working on my DVD ZakLand with director Jay Silverman and advisor Tony Thomopoulos.  We were trying to come up with a catch phrase that could be repeated throughout.  I think it was Jay who said, “What about “I can do it” spelled backwards?  I went home and wrote the song that night.

GTGA: What is one of your simple pleasures?
Eating an entire row of Oreos or hitting a pure shot on the golf course.

GTGA: What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Encouraging children.

 

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