Introducing Prime Time at MoMA: A Celebration of Creativity and Aging

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”—Frank Lloyd Wright

How many people can say they learned to see at the age of 94? Vivian Smith did. At a recent event at MoMA she said, “I’m going to be thinking about art in a different way now…at 94! I have learned to take my time, to look, and to see, which I had not really done in all of these years.”

Vivian is a member of a collective of older New Yorkers convened by MoMA to advise us on Prime Time, a new outreach and programming initiative aimed to increase participation of people ages 65 and up. Along with 10 others, Vivian spent the past six months assisting with our research and development phase. She participated in a variety of adult programs: drawing from live models during the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Sketching from Life workshops, touring contemporary exhibitions with MoMA educators, and discussing art with teenagers from MoMA’s Cross-Museum Collective. To her surprise, she even created Henri Matisse-inspired collages in the MoMA Studio that ended up on the wall in the Education and Research Building. She also told us about her experience of aging, both positive and negative. She told us that “Older adults are used to being invisible,” and that at MoMA she wasn’t. “I was so welcomed and felt so wanted. Suddenly I was important, and this is a good feeling. It enabled me to communicate with new people, both the MoMA staff and the other participants.”

Vivian at MoMA Studio making a fabric collage inspired by the work of Henri Matisse. Photo: TK

Vivian at MoMA Studio making a fabric collage inspired by the work of Henri Matisse. Photo: Howard Deitch

I came to know Vivian because she brings her adult grandson, who is an artist with autism, to workshops at MoMA through our Access Programs. In fact, she has been bringing her children and grandchildren to the Museum for decades. Prime Time, she says, has offered her the opportunity to feel connected to MoMA herself, not just as a caregiver. It has allowed her to explore her own interests, make discoveries, create art, and socialize.

Vivian’s experience echoes what we learned from various experts and older adults throughout our research phase. Older adults appreciate a warm welcoming environment, opportunities to learn, and time to socialize, and our offerings will reflect this. Free to New York City residents ages 65 and up, Prime Time’s ongoing programs and events will cover a range of topics and take a range of shapes and sizes. We’d like MoMA—both on-site and online—to be a place for older adults to be creative, learn, and connect with others.

Vivian with MoMA Teens participants. Photo: TK

Vivian with MoMA Teens participants. Photo: Kaitlyn Stubbs

The initiative formally launches on Saturday, May 9, with Prime Time: A Celebration of Creativity and Aging, a daylong event offering all visitors 65 and over free admission and the chance to participate in a variety of drop-in activities throughout the Museum. All are welcome. Vivian added, “I was just thinking about how important museums are, and the people who do not come are really missing out.”

To further celebrate, throughout the month of May, MoMA is offering all New Yorkers ages 65 and up half-off senior admission (original price $18.00), and a $25 discount off the regular price of a new membership at the Individual level or above. For offer details and more information about upcoming programs, call (212) 333-1265 or visit