Zoë Bird, Director
Zoë Bird is a poet, editor, teaching artist, COMPAS roster artist and a mentor and consultant in the field of arts and aging. A poet-in-residence with the APP since 2006, Bird started APP-MN in 2012 along with Rachel Moritz, and with the guidance of international APP founder and director Gary Glazner, after moving back to her hometown of Minneapolis. Since then, APP-MN has grown to accommodate four poets-in-residence, who have collaborated with other teaching artists in visual art, storytelling, music, theater, and video; sustained residencies, trainings, and workshops at myriad sites and conferences around Minnesota; been awarded multiple grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council; featured on MPR; hosted a Poetry Party at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and helped make hundreds of elder poets’ voices heard. Bird’s poems have appeared in numerous art installations and multimedia collaborations as well as journals and anthologies. She co-organized and co-hosted monthly Open Poetry and Poets for Peace readings in Santa Fe, New Mexico for five and seven years, and now enjoys performing with writers and artists of all stripes in the Twin Cities.
Rachel Moritz has been leading groups with Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Minnesota since 2012. She believes in the power of poetry to inspire, build community, and carry the wisdom of individual voices. Rachel is the author of the poetry collection, Borrowed Wave (Kore Press, 2015). The recipient of three Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships, she also teaches writing through COMPAS, the Loft Literary Center, and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.
Julie fell in love with poetry at an early age and has continued to write and publish poems into her seventies. She has taught poetry writing at The Loft, as a writer in the schools for grades 1-12 and at Homewood Studios in Minneapolis. She believes that stories and images are what connect us to each other. She enjoys writers of all ages and combines that joy with her passion for being with those who want to write, want to share their words, surprise with their perceptions of the world. Julie is the author of three books of creative nonfiction: Basic Needs: A Year with Street Kids in a City School (Milkweed Editions, 1993) A White Teacher Talks About Race (Rowman and Littlefield 2001) and Growing Up White (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008. She is also the editor of many collections of essays stories and poems, the most recent being Voices for Diversity and Social Justice, A Literary Education Reader, with Paul Gorski and Rosanna Salcedo, (Rowman and Littlefield 2015). www.jlandsman.com
Diane Jarvenpa is poet, singer-songwriter, guitarist and kantele player (Finnish folk harp). She is the author of Divining the Landscape (New Rivers Press), Ancient Wonders, the Modern World (Red Dragonfly Press) and The Tender Wild Things (New Rivers Press) which received the Midwest Independent Publishers Association book award in poetry. She has received artist initiative and fellowship grants in writing from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She records under the name Diane Jarvi. Diane Jarvenpa has combined poetry and music in assisted living residences as well as memory units and nursing homes for several years. She often incorporates a small 5-string folk harp as a way to share and tell stories. She enjoys meeting new people who also like to share and explore the world of music and words. www.dianejarvi.com
guest teaching artists
Michèle Coppin is a master teaching artist and painter exhibiting in the US and in her native Belgium. Since relocating to Minnesota 6 years ago, she has concentrated on sharing the holistic and healing qualities of art with populations who need it most, including older adults with and without memory loss. Using a multimodal approach, her projects combine music, poetry and a variety of media. She also teaches intergenerational visual arts classes with kindergarteners and their "grand friends,": and visual memory classes, helping seniors turn their memories into works of art. As the visual arts mentor for ArtSage, she developed programing and trained artists and volunteers interested in working with seniors at all levels of care. Michèle works with young women in juvenile detention at the Hennepin County Home School and incarcerated women at the Adult Correctional Facility in Plymouth, and has created murals with homeless youth at the The Bridge and women in crisis at the Ascension Place shelter. She also teaches teens and adults at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts and Artistry (Bloomington Center for the Arts). In 2012/14, she was the Assistant Director to "Voice to Vision," a project that captures the experiences of genocide survivors through collaborative visual art pieces. Coppin’s artwork can be seen at Hennepin County Medical Center, Hudson Hospital, WI, and Corporate Art Force in Minneapolis. With a BFA from RISD and an MFA from Pratt Institute, Michèle has been an instructor for more than a decade, teaching at the college level as well as classes for children, teens, adults and seniors. http://www.michelecoppin.be
Holly Nelson is a visual artist who has been actively involved in the arts community for the past thirty years. She creates and exhibits drawings and paintings, teaches art and engages with the public at art festivals, exhibitions, art making demonstrations, open studio events and lectures. Her award-winning work has been shown in over fifty solo and group exhibitions throughout the Midwest and is found in public and private collections locally and nationally. Over nearly twenty years, Nelson has taught dozens of visual art classes and workshops around the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Her interest in art and health was a natural outgrowth of these teaching experiences, when she recognized that many students were struggling to learn the technical processes for making satisfying drawings and paintings while also grappling with personal life challenges. Following this realization, she began focusing her teaching on people in unique circumstances such as clients from the Center for Victims of Torture, patients being treated for cancer at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and with senior adults suffering from mental illness at Fairview Riverside. From 2012-2014, she was the Artist in Residence at Hennepin County Medical Center, where she made art with patients while they received chemotherapy infusions for cancer, children hospitalized for a wide range of illnesses and trauma, and groups of mothers whose infants were hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. As the AIR, Nelson made art together with patients and their families at the bedside, chair side and in lounge areas or other common spaces. Most recently, she has taught art to adults with cognitive disabilities, older adults with memory loss or other physical impairments, and women incarcerated at the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility. Nelson received her art degree from the University of Minnesota, and training in working with older adults through ArtSage.
Gary Glazner is the founder and Executive Director of the international Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP). The APP was the recipient of the 2013 Rosalinde Gilbert Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiving Legacy Award, and was awarded the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award in the category of Community Engagement. The National Endowment for the Arts listed the APP as a “best practice” for their Arts and Aging initiative, and NBC's “Today” show and NPR's “All Things Considered” have featured segments on Glazner’s work. In 2013, the U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey choose the APP for the initial broadcast of her new PBS NewsHour series, “Where Poetry Lives.” The series is a partnership between PBS and the Library of Congress. Trethewey writes about working with the APP, “...our grasp of language has a beginning in poetry. To see it used at a very different stage of life, and to such effect, was deeply moving.” Harper Collins, W.W. Norton and Salon.com have published Glazner’s work. His latest book is Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care (Health Professional Press, 2014).
May Lee-Yang is a playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. Her theater-based works have been produced by Mu Performing Arts, Intermedia Arts, Illusion Theater, the National Asian American Theater Festival, the MN Fringe Festival, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT), and others. She is also a teaching artist teaching creative writing and theater to youth and older adults through COMPAS and Mu Performing Arts. In 2014, she launched Letters to Our Grandchildren, a theater/food/storytelling/video project with Hmong elders. She also sits on the board of Community Artist Leadership Initiative, an organization whose mission is to build the leadership capacity of marginalized artists. She has received support for her work through the MN State Arts Board, the MRAC Next Steps Fund, the Bush Leadership Fellowship, the Jerome Foundation, the National Performance Network, the Playwrights’ Center, and Intermedia Arts’ Beyond the Pure Writing Fellowship.
Sarah Petersen is a writer and attorney based in Minneapolis. A former arts and cultural magazine editor, she earned her BA in Creative Writing from Miami University and her JD from the University of Minnesota. She currently works as a contracts analyst for a regional nonprofit healthcare organization.
George Roberts is a poet, a letterpress printer, an artist and a teacher, living and working in North Minneapolis. He taught literature and writing at North Community High School for 32 years. Upon retiring from formal teaching, he and his wife, Beverly, bought and rehabbed an abandoned commercial building a couple of blocks from their home and opened Homewood Studios, a community art gallery and studio space for local artists. Over the years, Roberts has published four small books of poetry. Recently his studio press, known as DownStairs Press, published Bringing Gifts, Bringing News, Fifty Poems Five Lines Each, an anthology of the poets who comprise his constellation of teachers, mentors, peers and students. (Zoë Bird is one of the poets published in the anthology.)
Susan Ryan currently serves as Occupational Therapist for the Wilder Adult Day Health Program in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where Zoë Bird and Rachel Moritz have facilitated poetry workshops since 2012. She has been an occupational therapist for 35 years, with experience in home health care, community services, long-term care and adult day health programs specializing in older adults and cognitive assessments. She has consulted around and developed education programs for the Alzheimer’s Association for health providers, and with the University of Minnesota for caregivers.
Samantha Smart-Merritt joined the Level Playing Field Institute in 2016 as Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer. With three decades of experience in fundraising, social justice organizing and nonprofit management, Samantha brings a diverse skill set with a focus on connecting organizations with the resources they need to flourish, and is featured in The Compassionate Rebel Revolution: Ordinary People Changing the World. Prior to LPFI, Samantha served as Executive Director of InnerCity Tennis in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a social enterprise serving youth through education and physical fitness programming. A happy new resident of Oakland, Samantha is originally from Minnesota, lived in Cambridge and Boston after graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Government and spent 7 years in Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Samantha’s passions include travel, tennis, seeing her three children thrive and conjuring up solutions to systemic injustice.
Jane Tygesson is the coordinator for “Discover Your Story” for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) and an expert in arts and aging and creative engagement for elders with memory loss. In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota, the MIA’s Department of Museum Guide Programs, led by Jane, developed a tour program for people with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. “Discover Your Story” tours engage individuals in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s, and their family, friends or care partners, in discussions focused on thematically related artworks in the museum’s galleries. Participants are encouraged to discover themselves while reminiscing about, reflecting upon or comparing their own life stories to the stories in works of art.