Guest blogger Gail Sachson, M.F.A., owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.
Would you like to be in a relaxing, yet stimulating environment? No extraneous noise. Someone with a warm demeanor asking you what you think and feel? Would you like to share experiences with congenial people? Sounds too good to be true.
But the Kimbell Art Museum‘s “Viewpoints” program, developed for Alzheimer’s patients and modeled after a program at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, offers just such an environment every month. From 1-2:30 p.m. on select Mondays, when the museum is closed, up to 20 individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers are invited free of charge to the museum for interactive art experiences.
Because the museum is quiet — no diners, docent tours or people to dodge in the galleries — participants feel no pressure. I joined the group on a Monday earlier this month when the work of Matisse was the stimulus for conversation and art-making. Many of the participants, residents at local assisted-living centers, were not suffering from Alzheimer’s but were just as in need of intellectual stimulation and social interaction.
I began smiling when the first participant through the door in a wheelchair said, ” Oh this is great! It brings back so many memories. I’ve spent so much time here. My grandchildren grew up in this place,” smiling throughout the next hour and half.
With walkers and wheelchairs, about six residents were welcomed by three well-trained and congenial docents who offered nametags, rearranged afghans, pushed wheelchairs and helped gather the group in front of Matisse’s L’Asie, where chairs had been set up.
“What is the mood of this painting?” asked a docent.
“Oh, I thought you said, ‘nude’,” was the giggled response.
Laughter put everyone at ease.
It was decided the picture was exciting. It was a party. She was in costume. A fur. Her necklace was missing a bead. It had an Oriental feeling.
“Would you hang this over your mantle?” asked the docent.
“At first, no,” said one visitor. “But I like it now.”
“No,” said the lone male.
Most participated. Some just listened and looked. Then, it was on to art-making, inspired by what we saw.
“I’m afraid to start,” protested an Alzheimer’s patient. Urged on by the docent, she did start and ended up proudly creating a truly personalized, wonderful work of art. As she worked, she provided me with the most poignant memory of my visit. She hummed as she painted. Painting had brought her peace.