Anne Basting

2023 Unstoppable Voters Fellow Anne Basting is mobilizing students to vote across Wisconsin

Anne Basting. Photo by UWM Photo Services.
Anne at work on The Crossings – making Milwaukee safe for pedestrians. Photo by Brad Lichtenstein.

Anne Basting (she/her) is a writer, artist, and advocate for the power of creativity to transform our lives. She is Professor of English at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where she directs the Center for 21st Century Studies (C21), an interdisciplinary humanities center working to build a community of scholars to address the pressing issues of our time.

Her creative activism entails studying systems and infusing them with creativity to empower the storytellers within. She has trained, consulted, and collaborated with Meals on Wheels, libraries, museums, home care companies, senior centers, memory cafes, elder advocacy organizations, nursing homes, high schools, arts councils, children’s choirs, theater companies, and bike and pedestrian advocacy organizations.

Basting is Founder of the award-winning non-profit, which trains, inspires, and supports caregivers to infuse creativity into care relationships and systems. Her writing and large-scale public performances have helped shape an international movement to extend creative and meaningful expression from childhood, where it is expected, through late life, where it has been too long withheld.

Her writing includes Creative Care: A Revolutionary Approach to Elder and Dementia Care (Harper), Penelope: An Arts-based Odyssey to Transform Eldercare (U of Iowa), and Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia (Johns Hopkins). Internationally recognized for her speaking and her innovative work, Anne is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and numerous major awards and grants.

Basting’s Unstoppable Voters project is part of C21’s annual programming, focused in 2023-24 on the theme Trust the Vote. In addition to this project, Basting is currently working on expanding Memory Cafes in the U.S.; a performance project to establish a ritual supporting new caregivers called “Care Showers;” a visual art project called Wonder Walks, and a performance project called Within a Single Rose.

About UWM Center for 21st Century Studies

The UWM Center for 21st Century Studies was founded in 1968 to build a community of scholars to address the pressing issues of our time. The interdisciplinary humanities center is known as a leader in humanities thought and action.

C21 programming emerges from an annual survey of community and university stakeholders, and is designed to offer multiple points of access and honor multiple ways of knowing. This includes a podcast series called 6.5 Minutes With C21; roundtable discussions with emerging, established scholars and community experts; an interactive book club with curricular resources for both formal and informal classrooms; and a participatory, story-based research project. Current programming includes Lonely No More! the making and unmaking of loneliness, isolation and connectedness (2021-22); Nourishing Trust: considering food and land justice (2022-23); and Trust the Vote: balancing skepticism and participation in democracy (2023-24).

C21 supports interdisciplinary knowledge creation through fellowships for individual scholars and seed funding for collaborative projects.

Trust the Vote

Through Unstoppable Voters, Anne is creating clarity amongst students that voting is a vital part of education in a democracy. She is doing this all while working to engender feelings of curiosity, responsibility, and trust among college age voters across the state of Wisconsin.

One way Anne is encouraging students to Trust the Vote is through the mobile Story Cart at UWM. The Story Cart, what UWM calls “at once a work of art and a vehicle for conversation” asks participants to share their personal stories related to a specific topic — in this case, voting. Each story is documented as audio, text, or drawings and shared in an open-access digital story bank that will be used by artists, researchers, and community partners.

The mobile Story Cart set up at UW-Milwaukee

Check out this video to learn more about the Story Cart from Anne herself!

Anne on being an Unstoppable Voters Fellow

I am eager to meet fellow fellows and learn with and from them how to inspire and cajole action – to tickle people with story and entice them into civic action. I am eager to help shift the civic dialogue away from anger towards a curious and generous creativity.

– Anne Basting, Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Anne Basting
Anne sharing a drawing at the Story Cart