Art for Life Program Images

Art for Life Program Images

NDCA's Art for Life Program seeks to improve the emotional and physical health and wellness of elders in care facilities, as well as those living independently, through intensive art and artist interaction.

Numerous studies indicate the remarkable and positive impact of arts on health and wellness, and NDCA was one of the first state arts agencies to explore and develop an arts/health nexus in a sustained and systematic way, specifically with regard to people in elder care facilities.

The Art for Life Program grew out of a small NDCA Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant in 1999 and a subsequent NEA-funded pilot project with an elder care facility in 2001-03. Since then, the program has grown statewide and has become recognized nationwide.

The program develops community resources and capacity in creative aging and health. Towards this goal, long-term partnerships between local arts agencies, elder care and service facilities, schools, and artists are fostered. Both folk and non-folk arts and artists are important to its success as is tapping into social, familial, ethnic, and traditions-based networks.

Art for Life Program Collaborations in Response to Covid-19

Art for Life Program Collaborations in Response to Covid-19
Accordion Section Title
Musical Collaboration with Chuck Suchy

The Art for Life Program seeks to improve the emotional and physical health of elders, many of whom are in elder care facilities, through intensive art and artist interaction. The winter of 2020 saw the advent of COVID-19 and subsequent measures to curtail its impact. Among the worst affected were our elders quarantined in care facilities. 

To help combat the stress, loneliness, and other negative health factors associated with this time, art activities were redesigned to align with physical distancing and other safety factors while still generating meaningful, impactful interaction. One such effort was beautifully done by Chuck Suchy, a talented and highly respected folk singer, musician, and songwriter from rural Mandan, ND. 

Partnering with:

  1. Bismarck Art & Galleries Association and Burleigh County Senior Adults Program in Bismarck, ND,
  2. Enderlin Municipal Fine Arts Association and Maryhill Manor in Enderlin, ND, and
  3. Jamestown Fine Arts Association and Ave Maria Village/Heritage Centre in Jamestown, ND,

Chuck called elders on the phone and visited with them about their lives, thoughts, and experiences. Using words of inspiration generated from those conversations, four songs were written, performed, and recorded to be shared with those elders, their families, and others with those organizations and in those communities. 

  1. We Worked with Horses was inspired by conversations from Jamestown,
  2. Listen to the Wise, from Enderlin, 
  3. At the Center, from Bismarck, and
  4. How Will I Know Your Heart, from Bismarck 

As a collection and collaborative effort with the elders, these four songs reveal strength, humor, and wisdom during these difficult times.  They touch upon the essence of North Dakota folklife while "How Will I Know Your Heart" also, in beautifully poignant lyrics, expresses the feelings of many associated with required physical distancing during COVID-19, feelings that transcend the pandemic to the essence of what is most important in life – connectedness and love. 

If you would like Chuck to perform these and other songs or have him do a similar project, email him at:

Thank you, Chuck, the elders, and organizations involved! 

Chuck also talked about this collaboration and his conversations with elders in care facilities, which inspired him to write "How Will I Know Your Heart" that he performed at NDCA's Statewide Arts Convening, a part of the Main Street Summit in October 2020. Watch the inspiring video here: