Art and Dementia

From late 2017 to mid 2019 I worked with the Minnetonka Center for the Arts on a project to bring arts programming to people with dementia and their caregivers. Funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board, The Dementia-Friendly City Initiative provided opportunities to create and experience art. Semi-monthly “Memory Cafes” allowed people with dementia to try their hands at watercolor, clay, drawing, painting, and other types of visual artwork. Over the many months of classes, I documented moments of creativity, joy, and sometimes frustration; I also witnessed the formation of a community, as the art-makers and their caregivers connected every month with this new group of peers.

I would document the classes, and also take pictures of the participants with their artwork at the end of each class. I’d print those photos and bring them to the next class, so that over time people became accustomed to receiving pictures from me. One couple told me that their refrigerator was covered with all their photos from “art class.”

I found it relatively easy to connect with the participants, as my grandmother had dementia, and lived with us for many years. I could also relate to the caregivers, as I was taking care of my own elderly parents during this time. My mom and dad passed away in the middle of the project; the rhythm of connecting with this group of people twice a month was one of the things that helped me through the initial stages of grief.

I also shot portraits of some of the people with dementia and their caregivers, and worked with Rachel Moritz, a writer who did interviews during the portrait sessions. Rachel then translated the interviews into written text; her text and my photos tell the story of this program in a exhibit, which will debut at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in June, 2019. The plan is for the exhibit to travel around the city of Minnetonka, and perhaps other communities, to show how art can bring joy and comfort to everyone.

ClientMinnetonka Center for the ArtsProjectThe Art of Living with DementiaYear2017-2019CreditsProgram Director: Mara Miller
Writer: Rachel Moritz
Designer: Nikki Lindberg