Osher Lifelong Learning Institute honored for its contributions to arts education


TheArtsFairfax Awards celebrate visionary contributions to arts and culture in Fairfax County. On Oct. 26, ArtsFairfax honored theat Ƶ with its Education Award for providing exceptional arts education and opportunities to the community.

Students gather in an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute music education class
Participants in an OLLI Mason workshop taught by the LADAMA quartet, former Mason Artists-in-Residence

For more than 30 years, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI Mason) has offered educational, cultural, and social opportunities for adults in their retirement years. A nonprofit affiliate of Ƶ, OLLI Mason offers more than 600 courses each year on a broad spectrum of subjects, as well as clubs, social events, and excursions.

As Fairfax County’s local arts agency, ArtsFairfax distributes public funds for the arts, connects artists and arts organizations to each other and other sectors, and promotes arts and culture activities for residents.

“OLLI Mason exists to bring intellectual stimulation, social engagement, and arts and educational enrichment to its membership, as well as the wider community,” said Jennifer Disano, executive director of OLLI Mason. “ArtsFairfax champions our efforts and lifts us up as an example of excellence within Fairfax County as a premier educational institute—this is a great honor.”

Volunteer-run and member-driven, OLLI Mason offers classes and activities designed and taught by its members, Mason faculty, and regional experts. Through courses in creative arts, music, writing, poetry, and more, OLLI sparks the creativity and interests of its intellectually curious and active senior membership.

Disano expressed gratitude for the volunteers and supporters who contribute to OLLI programs. “We owe much of our success to the all-volunteer OLLI teacher corps, nonprofit partners, and Mason departments, especially the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, for their contributions to art appreciation courses within our organization,” said Disano.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, OLLI Mason has expanded its methods of delivering courses and is providing new experiences and programs for its members. Programming is availablein person, on Zoom, and in hybrid formats. A robust archive of over 1,000 recorded lectures is available in its electronic library.

With over 1,200 members, the institute’s impact continues to grow. One of its latest partnerships is with local retirement communities, where OLLI provides programming to residents.

“The 2023 ArtsFairfax Awards honorees demonstrate how the arts revitalize communities, improve our wellbeing, and spark creativity in unexpected places,” said Linda Sullivan, ArtsFairfax president and CEO. “We’re thrilled to celebrate each of these awardees for enriching the lives of Fairfax County residents.”