Tessa Windt

Tessa Windt
Phoenix, AZ
Collage, Drawing, Fiber Arts, Mixed Media, Photography, Sculpture, Media Arts
Adult Day Care, Assisted Living, College/University, Arts/Cultural Organizations, Community Center, Independent Living, K-12 Schools, Nursing Home, Senior Center
Working creatively with aging Canadian war veterans in the mid-1990’s, gave visual artist Tessa Windt the opportunity to learn firsthand the impact creative engagement can have on older adults. After a series of years punctuated by graduate studies, studio practice, exhibitions and adjunct university teaching positions, in 2009 Windt resumed her creative work with older adults with the project 'Parcel Post', a 6-site community-based project in which 60 older adults living across the state of North Carolina collaborated on 60 artworks.

Since 2011, Windt has worked with the Mesa Arts Center on their Creative Aging Outreach program, developing and coordinating visual arts projects with older adults at several sites around Mesa. Projects commissioned by the Mesa Arts Center 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. Windt’s most recent project, 'In-the-Round', invites participants to explore the pedestal as both a place to display a special object and as a sculptural form unto itself. Drawing from still life and pedestal traditions as well as recent and modern sculptural references, 'In-the-Round' uses formal abstraction as an entry point into layered, personal creative process and story-making.
I believe working with older adults is an opportunity to build confidence and connections between people, through the act of making. When we work creatively together we can bridge the isolation so many older adults face, creating a potent context in which each participant is a vital contributor with a great deal to give and receive. I see my role as creating a pliable framework in which individual and collective art-making experiences occur and confidence and connection are nourished.

As a practicing artist I approach each project I develop and each participant I encounter with great reverence and appreciation for the creative potential in all individuals and communities. By crafting projects that are about connecting and at times even collaborating, I aim to dissipate the inner pressures of imagined personal success or failure that may burden any one individual into a sense of group engagement and vital contribution of all participants, celebrating what we each have to offer. As a facilitator I aim to further support participants by creating a comfortable, permissive, supportive environment in which all participants feel at ease, implicated in the project and able to step out of comfort zones to experiment without fear of failure. I recognize that it is in the moments and gestures of engagement that confidence and connection are cultivated: in exchanging artworks in-progress between participants, in observation-based group conversations about an artwork, in choosing between red and blue paint.