I won't grow up
I won’t grow up

More than a dozen Signature Healthcare employees spent two days playing in Louisville last month, looking for new ways to turn some of their rural nursing homes into community centers for the arts.

It was the official launch of “I Won’t Grow Up,” a three-year project rolling out to 12 Signature facilities to enhance the lives of residents through the visual and performing arts.

Signature is partnering with the national creative storytelling group TimeSlips to bring in professional artists in residence who will encourage improv-style storytelling.

“The power of arts in healthcare is transformative,” said Angie McAllister, Signature’s director of cultural transformation and the driving force behind the initiative. “Opening ourselves up to imagination brings magic to life.”

Much of the collaboration will build on a Peter Pan theme, and the training featured painting, music workshops and a ‘flying lesson’ led by Chicago-based choreographer and dancer Kevin Iega Jeff. In all, 20 employees participated, including activity directors, a chaplain and others.

As residents this spring begin using related movement, word play and visual projects, medical staff will monitor weight loss, eating habits and other resident behavior. They will also document staff turnover and family satisfaction.

TimeSlips creator Anne Basting has worked in all kinds of community settings, but she relishes the idea of turning a nursing home into a place people want to be.

“Art allows us to reimagine what’s possible,” said Basting, professor of theatre at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

The collaboration is paid for by a $700,000 grant from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which doles out collected state penalties.