The Penelope Project




Of the 15,000 nursing homes in the United States, how many are places you’d want to visit, much less live in? Now that people are living longer and more of the population are elderly, this question is more important than ever, particularly for people with disabilities. We must transform long-term care into an experience we and our loved ones can face without dread. It can be done. The Penelope Project takes readers on an ambitious journey to create a long-term care community that engages its residents in challenging, meaningful art-making.

penelope project still 2At Milwaukee’s Luther Manor, a team of artists from the University of Wisconsin’s theatre department and Sojourn Theatre Company, university students, staff, residents, and volunteers traded their bingo cards for copies of The Odyssey. They embarked on a two-year project to examine this ancient story from the perspective of the hero who never left home: Penelope, wife of Odysseus. Together, the team staged a play that engaged everyone and transcended the limits not just of old age and disability but also youth, institutional regulations, and disciplinary boundaries.

The Penelope Project takes readers on an ambitious journey to create a long-term care community that engages its residents in challenging, meaningful art-making.

Inviting readers to see through the eyes of residents, students, artists, staff, family members, and experts in the fields of education, long-term care, and civically engaged arts practice, this book underscores the essential role of the arts and humanities in living richly. Waiting, as Penelope waited, need not be a time of loss and neglect. The Penelope Project boldly dreams of how to make late life a time of growth and learning. If you dream of improving people’s lives through creative endeavors, this book provides practical advice. Penelope project still 1

Available from the University of Iowa Press.

The Penelope Project was collaboratively created, and the book is authored by three of the project partners: playwright, scholar, and professor Anne Basting; director and creative producer Maureen Towey; and gerontologist and chief arts officer and co-founder of GeroStart, Ellie Rose.

Anne Basting

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… Continue reading →

Ellie Rose

Ellie Rose co-created GeroStart after being a leader in adult day services for seven years.  Her vision was to design an intercultural platform to educate adults how to increase personal enjoyment in life from creative living, learning and enlightenment practices as they age. Rose’s Creative Longevity method encourages age and ability integration so that people may connect through interests… Continue reading →

Maureen Towey

Maureen Towey is a director working in multiple artistic mediums. She worked as Creative Director for Arcade Fire on their Grammy award winning album, The Suburbs. Highlights from that campaign include collaborating on interactive video The Wilderness Downtown, working with Terry Gilliam for a concert at Madison Square Garden, and managing a number of Arcade Fire’s charitable projects… Continue reading →

Reviews & News for The Penelope Project

Anne Basting, co-editor of The Penelope Project, has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, also known as a Genius Grant. “Basting’s perspective on aging and the power of stories is changing the perceptions of caregivers, family members, and policymakers around the artistic and creative capabilities of older adults, regardless of age or cognitive status,” the… Continue reading →

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