Without a doubt, art has the power to enhance – and even change – our lives. For those living with Alzheimer’s, this holds especially true. As the ability to recall and communicate falters, self-expression can fall by the wayside, leading to frustration and further withdrawal from the world. Art can be a saving grace, as the therapeutic activity can have profoundly positive effects on the brain; art can stimulate the senses, offer a new way to communicate, and trigger memories. It can create peace from anxiety as artists absorb themselves with the creative process. Art offers people an opportunity to feel like a part of the world, to feel like they are contributing value and beauty.
A recent exhibit in Seattle brought the opportunity for those with Alzheimer’s to display their paintings to the public. The Artist Within: A Different View of Dementia featured 50 pieces of artwork by those 60-101 years of age, all living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The exhibit aimed to show that those with the disease are still there, and still capable of creating.
Marilyn Raichle, exhibition director, states, “I hear all the time, ‘Mom left us years ago’ , which prompts the question, if she left, who’s there? And I think this exhibition helps answer that question. Who’s there is someone who is living with joy and creativity. And who’s there is someone well worth getting to know.”
Friends and family members streamed through the exhibit, marveling gratefully at the glimpse into their loved ones’ minds. The artists looked upon their work proudly, happy to show them off. One artist, Janet Atherton, admired a beautiful painting, not remembering it was she who created it until she saw her name next to it. To see her artwork on a gallery wall was a new opportunity for her, one that will open new avenues of expression and finding her place in the world.
Watch the video below to see scenes from the exhibit’s opening night, and to get inspiring insights from the organizers and artists alike.
TC currently lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest, bellied up to a sun lamp. In addition to writing, she enjoys photography and estate sales, and is the proud mother to an ever-growing collection of cacti.