Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dementia and Creativity: Brainstorming Workshop

Remember I made all the new mini-concertinas for my new residency? Well, I got stuck in painting the first of them last week. That initial session was a workshop: a brainstorming day with a group of academics from different universities who are working on the project, to formulate ideas around the theme of Dementia and Creativity, gathering thoughts, ready for putting in a much larger bid for a major project in the future.

My role was two-fold. Firstly, I was there in my usual capacity, as artist-in-residence, recording proceedings and trying to get across the feel of the day. It was a very casual set-up, unlike similar events from last year's residency. Instead of a soulless university room, Dr Balmer had booked a space in Hulme Community Garden Centre.

I filled two of my new books, which wasn't too bad going, since I only spent half my time sketching. My other role was to take part in the discussions, to give the artist's perspective. It was absolutely fascinating. That's one of the reasons I love this new style of work.

We used a technique called World CafĂ© to begin, working in groups of 3 or 4, discussing questions such as 'What is creativity?' and 'How does creativity figure in the lives of people with dementia?', moving from group to group, recording our thoughts on big sheets of paper. As the day progressed, there were larger group discussions too, considering issues such as methods for measuring creativity and creative research methods. Sometimes I drew, sometimes I took part.

In the afternoon, I joined a small group again, to think about unusual ideas for using creativity to enrich the lives of dementia sufferers. We came up with a few possible projects, but the tricky bit is measuring outcomes - it's such a subjective area and any changes you make to people's existence can be subtle, transitory and tricky to prove after the event.

I have a gap before my next day on this project, while the other participants develop the ideas we generated into more detailed ideas for bid possibilities.

In the meantime, I have a couple of days of sketching on another project - also an extension of the work I did during my residency last year. This is more work on the menthol project, recording people's attitudes to synthesised menthol in the products they use every day. My first day in on Saturday.


Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

Lost my Mother to dementia 2 years ago, I think she might have responded to several creative outlets. She always loved music, she made sure all 3 of her children learned to play an instrument... but she never did... She liked to sew and could fashion clothes that were so unique and fabulous. She was a great cook too. Finally 2 of her children became artists, so somewhere inside even though she never drew that I know of, may have been a creative soul. I hope your projects helps people like my Mother find a creative outlet when their minds leave them so lost in other ways.

Lynne the Pencil said...

I'm so sad to hear about you mum Elaine. I lots my dad to it too, as well as my father-in-law.

My Dad played the piano, but music was never offered to him while he was ill either. A token 'crafting' hour once a week was pretty much it for creativity, and even that stopped once he got worse.

I believe there is a lot to be gained from this discussion for future sufferers. Creativity touches different parts of your being and accesses different areas of your brain. It can add joy, confidence and communication to your life, even if it is just in small ways.

Deborah said...

How I wish this discussion could take place in all areas of caring and all branches of medicine! Creativity in all forms is such a powerful form of healing and support (and I speak from experience because I've suffered from ME for 30 years). I love your way of working - it's not just the drawings (which are wonderful) - I think it goes way beyond reportage and liberates people to think more creatively. So exciting!

Jacqui Boyd said...

I trained as an art therapist in the early 1990's with couple of groups who had dementia. It was an enlightening experience.
I had one lady who had severe early onset dementia and it was a struggle for her just hold a crayon and she would only pick black or dark colours. Then one week she just dove into the paint as she talked about all the colours and how happy they made her(as well as she could as her speech was almost gone). It was a very small, concise and colourful abstract painting about a room and the sky. Her husband was thrilled to bits with it, although by that time she had forgotten about it. 2 days later she died quite unexpectedly. I had another experience of someone drawing all the light around his hand in a rainbow of colours. For the first time in the few months I was there, he didn't complain he couldn't draw. Just enjoyed the colour. He died a week later.
Art is definitely a way to communicate with this group. Playdoh was one the best materials as they weren't making art. Often people still think that 'art' is that hideous subject they did at school and where they were told they couldn't paint/draw.
Unfortunately, I never got to use my art therapy training as it was not really recognised at the time in Scotland and then we moved to Texas where I would have to retrain. I would have like to have continued working with dementia patients as often there is un-diagnosed depression which in turn makes the dementia worse.