Anne Basting ’87, who graduated cum laude from Colorado College with a degree in English, has been named a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. She is the second Colorado College graduate in two years to receive the esteemed MacArthur Foundation’s highest honor, also known as the “genius grant.”

Basting, a professor of theatre in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, focuses on community-engaged performance. As a theatre artist and educator, Basting’s work emphasizes the power of storytelling, artistic performance, and interactive creative experiences to build vital human connection among seniors suffering from dementia and cognitive impairment. She was recently interviewed on NPR by Kelly McEvers.

In naming Basting an award recipient, the MacArthur Foundation notes that “the overarching goal of Basting’s work is to change the way we think about aging. Her improvisational, community-centered theatre pieces demonstrate that the strength of creativity remains regardless of age or cognitive status and can improve the lives of the elderly, their families, and caregivers.

“Across a variety of formats and platforms — theater, memoir, narrative, collaborative public performance, and academic research — Basting has developed an alternative concept of aging, one that focuses on its possibilities as well as its challenges and views sustained emotional connections as critical to our well-being as we age,” notes the MacArthur Foundation.

Basting is one of 23 fellows who will receive a $625,000 no-strings-attached grant in recognition of their exceptional creativity and potential for future contributions to their fields.

Basting’s breakthrough project, “TimeSlips,” is an improvisational storytelling method in which older adults with cognitive impairment imagine stories and poems in response to inspiring cues. Basting used a collection of poems by the residents of Luther Manor Home in Wisconsin to create and stage a theatre piece with the residents in 2000. She then refined and transformed “TimeSlips” into a formal therapy protocol guided by her fundamental insight that the creation of new stories can be an enriching substitute for lost memories. She has since created several theatre pieces with elder collaborators around specific themes or community issues. The most ambitious of these, “The Penelope Project,” grew out of a series of writing, visual arts, and music and movement exercises that imagines the life of Penelope as she awaits the return of Odysseus in Homer’s tale. Other projects have encouraged community engagement, promoted intergenerational interactions, and raised awareness around elder safety.

Basting’s perspective on aging and the power of stories is changing the perceptions of caregivers, family members, and policy makers around the artistic and creative capabilities of older adults, regardless of age or cognitive status. Her nonprofit, TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, offers online and in-person training programs and has helped long-term care facilities and caregivers around the world implement the program.

In addition to receiving a B.A. from Colorado College, Basting holds an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Basting joins John Novembre ’00 as a Colorado College recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s genius award.