Monday, April 27, 2015

Artful Afternoon

Artist Erin Laende helps care partners with their sculpture.

I spent Sunday afternoon at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in downtown Halifax as an observer of a joint program between the AGNS and the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia for an article I'm writing for the Chronicle-Herald.
This is the second season for "Artful Afternoons" which began in 2014 to provide people living with dementia and their spouses, children or friends a chance to spend an afternoon once a month in the studio. Each session is inspired by a current exhibit at the gallery -- April's was sculpture -- and begins with a short tour followed by 90 minutes in the studio doing a project based on the topic. Yesterday, the pairs worked on sculpting birds out of newspaper, masking tape, glue and tissue (papier mache).
What I noticed as I wandered around taking photos and talking with people is that the afternoon isn't about what is created, or even finishing it; it's about having fun and socializing. It was interesting to note those who clustered in one big group and were loud and chatty with each other, and those pairs who chose to sit by themselves away from the crowd, to be in their own quiet space with each other.
I'm not a good enough photographer to capture the uniqueness of each set of care partners. Elizabeth's big smile as she laughed. Jack's eyes lighting up as he talked about his cat. Michael's animation as he talked about his long-ago days as an art teacher.
Whenever cuts are needed in schools and in communities, it's always the creative arts that are hit first and hardest and yet it often is art and music and dance that is able to slip inside a person' and bring alive the part of their brain not (yet) affected by whatever neurological disorder or injury that person is living with.
Anyone passing by that room, hearing the laughter and the chatter, would have no idea half of the people sitting around those tables were in the early stages of dementia.

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