(Photo | by Kenneth Marunowski, PhD)
As we move through our busy lives, rushing from one activity to the next, it’s easy to forget about others in the world who live very differently from us, those who are, for example, less fortunate than us. This past Sunday I experienced a reality that was simultaneously very familiar and incredibly foreign: familiar in that it was infused with art, foreign in that the art was created by those who might not remember making it. Such was my visit to Art Walk in the Meadow, a show of paintings made by the memory care residents of Mt. Bachelor Assisted Living and Memory Care.
As my escort to the Art Walk room unlocked the door to permit me access, I entered a lively space filled with color, music and mingling. Beautiful landscape and abstract paintings adorned the walls, accordion music permeated the atmosphere, and residents and their guests ate, drank and chatted away. A young woman offering wine and non-alcoholic beverages stood behind a table of crackers, cheese and salami: a true art opening!
Lifestyle Director for Memory Care Lisa Alexander invited me to have a look at the creations made by many of her twenty-four residents while explaining some of what goes on at the Meadow. “We strive to provide gap-free programming full of art, music, reading and gaming with minimal TV time,” Lisa explained, “a Montessori-style learning experience focused on the gifts and talents of the residents, what they can do rather than what they can’t do.” She then related a story where one of the residents made a painting that, to its creator, just didn’t seem right. The same artist then embarked on another piece and “got it,” her face beaming with joy and satisfaction at her achievement.
With respect to the artwork, two art instructors alternate weekly sessions: Bill Lewis, who leads residents in water color, and Walter Lee, LPC, who focuses on tempera painting. Bill commented on the pleasure he receives from the reactions of some residents who know it’s an “art day” when he enters the room. He also noted the joy residents exude when he shows them paintings they have made, exclaiming often in disbelief, “Oh wow, I did that!” Walter expressed how “fun it is for everyone, very therapeutic.” In fact, one fellow stood by Walter and me as we chatted, pointing proudly to his name below his artwork, drawing our attention to his coveted creation.
My experience at Meadow Memory Care Art Walk reiterates the extreme importance and incredible potency of art in all our lives, no matter what stage in the game we occupy. Creative activities must be encouraged and funded for all!