Crystal Bridges’ Creative Connections: Art and Alzheimer’s Program piloted in January, 2013 as a collaboration between Crystal Bridges and the Northwest Arkansas/Bentonville office of the Alzheimer’s Association. During monthly two-hour sessions, a small group of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers meet at the Museum to discuss art and create original artwork. The program strives to cultivate a stimulating environment for all involved through active engagement with art during gallery and studio explorations. During each session I am struck by the thoughtful insights of the participants and the creative artwork they produce.
The artwork focus and studio activities change each month, but the program’s format remains the same every session. Participants arrive and meet in a classroom where they enjoy refreshments and are introduced to the theme and art focus for the session. Next, the group travels to the galleries for a facilitated discussion of one artwork that usually lasts about thirty minutes. The discussion alternates from a full group dialogue to pair-centered conversations, with the facilitator engaging participants to chat about the art through the use of open-ended questions. The conversation is laid-back and flows organically, highlighting anything from the formal elements of art, to the artistic process, viewer interpretations, or the artist’s background, depending on what the group notices and brings to the discussion. Participants often make connections between what they see and what they’ve experienced in the past, sharing stories with their caregivers and the group, or reflecting on childhood memories.
After visiting the galleries, the group returns to the classroom where each person creates an original work of art inspired by the artwork just explored. Over the past year, artwork featured and studio projects have included looking at Alexander Calder’s stabile Trois Noirs sur un Rouge paired with making mixed-media mobiles; and examination of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s cedar sculpture Unraveling, coupled with making clay sculptures; and reflecting on Grace Hartigan’s Rough, Ain’t It, paired with a mixed-media collage project. Participants socialize with each other during the studio component and leave each session with a work of art they can proudly display.
Creative Connections fosters an engaging environment through the exploration of art, provides a fun and artistic outlet for participants, and creates a forum for meaningful conversations. If you are interested in learning more about Creative Connections, please contact Amanda Driver at [email protected] or Denyce Willis, Program Coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas/Bentonville office of the Alzheimer’s Association at [email protected] or 479-273-5559.