Open: November 11
Close: December 3
Artist: Opening Minds Through Art
The creative capacities of people with dementia are often underestimated. This is because we fail to recognize the person that remains despite memory changes and disabilities. We all construct our identities through relationships with others as we build memories together across a lifetime. We all gain and lose friends, jobs, and social standing based on our intelligence, wit, and charm. But when people develop dementia, these valuable social tools are damaged, and skills are undermined. With it goes our ability to value them as unique individuals with a complex sense of self and a long history. We tend to see them as empty shells, and we see the rest of their lives as a long goodbye, or even a living death.
The Opening Minds through Art (OMA) program is designed to show that people with dementia do have a unique self that can be expressed through art. Miami student volunteers go to retirement communities each week to facilitate this creative process. We bring artistic inspiration, art supplies, and offer our friendship. Each week we pair up with the same partners, and we listen, watch, and learn new ways to value them for who they are now. We encourage them to make their own aesthetic decisions, while supporting their remaining abilities so that they can be active agents in their own creative process. This exhibition is evidence that dementia may have robbed them of their memories but not of their creative capacities.
The OMA program was developed in 2007 at Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University and replicated in over 200 retirement communities throughout North America.