Cedar Hill in the News! The talented artists residing in our Judith Brogren Memory Care Wing were recently featured on Page 1 of the Eagle Times, our local paper in Claremont, NH. We are honored to have such a great article written about the gifted residents and our hardworking (and talented, too!) staff!
WINDSOR, Vt. — In the community room at the Judith Brogren Memory Care Center, walls are adorned with canvas paintings, papercraft mosaics, and three-dimensional, multi-media works of art. Colorful paper neckties decorate the ceiling. Through the large, airy windows, a tall white fence encircling the garden and walking path is hung with large painted banners carrying messages: Love. Laugh. Hope. Dream. Peace.
These pieces of art and several larger group projects were all created by MCC residents with the help of Activities Facilitator Pam Crosby. About a dozen residents will soon have their works displayed in a month-long exhibit at the Gallery at the VAULT, a nonprofit arts center in downtown Springfield.
The art project is meaningful in several ways, Crosby said. It helps those who may visit the exhibit remember that older citizens still shine with their individual personalities, and also helps those taking part to come out of the shell that can come with advanced age; to interact with one another, and to find purpose.
On Tuesday, June 19, several of the project participants — many of whom have backgrounds in handcrafting, quilting, woodworking and painting — gathered in the community room to share what this upcoming exhibit means to them.
Claudine Spencer beamed when she talked about her artwork, and how much she is enjoying the projects.
She has not always felt that way, however. When she first arrived, she had planned to stay in her room, and thought she would not want to socialize or take part in activities. But that passed quickly. Now, she said with a chuckle, her family has to call her in the evening because she stays so busy every day.
This is also the first time she has taken part in an art project, which she said she enjoys, a feat she attributed to Crosby’s encouragement.
“I had never done art in my life,” she said. “I’m so happy here. I’m so grateful.”
Fonzo Orizzonto, formerly of Lebanon and White River Junction, said he used to work on the railroads, and used to enjoy building birdhouses. He has been involved in most of the MCC art projects, and also helps with the raised-bed garden in the center’s yard.
The specialized memory care center, built in 2015 at Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community, was designed to offer a secure environment for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias while providing ample social opportunities, physical exercise, and mental stimulation.
Residents on Tuesday chatted about the hobbies they have enjoyed in the past. Virginia Buswell, formerly of Maple Avenue in Claremont, said she used to do a lot of crafting, and spoke about the time years ago when she was a manager at J.J. Newberry’s five-and-dime store.
Thelma Shulins was in the community room with her husband Arnold, who visits daily. Thelma used to paint watercolors. Janet Bennett said she has been a quilter and used to paint. Charlene Bostrom said she painted Mount Washington once, among other landscapes and varied subjects. And Vera Melton said she used to be a beader and jewelry-maker.
“I had a good time, too,” she said.
The group even has a color and fashion go-to consultant, Pearl Giannini, originally of Connecticut. Gianinni has lost some of the use of her hands but is “very fashionable,” Crosby said. Gianninni agreed. She often gives advice to the group on color usage and design.
The artists also get creative out of necessity when they are busy with a project. Spencer, for instance, was helping with a project that involved affixing dozens of soft, paper-punched butterflies, in a gradient of orange shades, to a heart-shaped stenciled background. Her shoulder troubles her, so she devised a method to put her fingers together for extra strength and leverage to squeeze the paper punch. She smiled widely when Crosby talked about her ingenuity.
When the group gets together, they can easily pass the day focused on a project.
“They created 250 [painted] craft sticks in one day!” Crosby said. “Once they got engaged, we just kept going. They loved it.”
The installment of painted panels on the white fence outside the unit is a recent addition. That came about when Crosby realized that some residents did not want to go outside because of “snow.” When they looked out and saw the tall white fence, although the sky was blue and sunny above it, some were sure they were seeing a snowbank, and wanted to remain indoors.
To help them remember that it was only a fence out there along the grassy yard and walking path, she came up with the idea of painting panels, which the group created as a project. Now, the messages — in cheery shades of yellow, pink, red, green and blue — not only serve as a memory tool, but they and other hung artwork are visible to other residents living upstairs, creating a shared visual for all.
Crosby said that often, older residents in the memory care unit have trouble forming their thoughts into cohesive sentences, or communicating at all. But get them together in a group, working on a piece of art, and “the conversations that come out are amazing,” she said. “They are focused and engaged.”
Cathy Connors, the nurse manager at MCC, said that the center tries to enhance and provide the best quality of life for the residents and their families. She had come over to say hello to the group while they talked about their projects.
“The artwork speaks for itself,” Connors said. “They get to admire it; it gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of pride.”
Arnold Shulins, in hushed tones out of earshot of the rest of the group, praised Crosby for her work, calling her “outstanding, creative, compassionate and intelligent” for her efforts in creating games and projects, and for the help she provides the residents.
Crosby said the group’s families are excited to see their work going into an art exhibit at an art gallery.
Crosby, a former kindergarten teacher, said the residents do artwork or a craft project every day since about February. Some of the projects are inspired by other artists, and some are inspired by her own ideas. Some are themed to a holiday, such as the colorful paper ties for Father’s Day, or butterflies to celebrate summer.
“These people are amazing,” Crosby said. Even when some participants don’t understand quite what the end result will be, they enjoy the creative process, she said.
The idea for the downtown Springfield art installation came about when Crosby had several of the works at her home, where she was helping to mount them on backing and add hooks.
Her friend, who works at the art gallery, was looking over the works of art. Crosby’s friend brought some of the art to Marilyn Miller, the gallery manager.
“Marilyn said, ‘We need to have a display,'” Crosby recalled.
The group has also worked on a large sign, which now hangs on the wall above a dining area.
“A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in the garden,” it says in purple paint above several lupine-like flowers in a rainbow of colors, painted painstakingly with dotted fingerprints, and signed with each of their names.
“It’s so important for these people to have a way to express themselves as individuals, so they are remembered for something other than their diagnoses,” Crosby said. “Some can’t get their words out, but you give them these materials, and they are able to create these beautiful projects.”
The residents of MCC had a Mother’s Day Ice Cream Social and art sale recently, raising $700 from the proceeds of their original works to help boost their Entertainment Fund.
The group’s newest artwork will be installed in late July, and will be on display from Aug. 2 to Aug. 29 on the Open Wall area of the Gallery at the VAULT. Field trips are planned to bring the residents to view their exhibit.
“They will be able to go and see their work in the gallery,” Crosby said.
The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The building is accessible to all. The Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center will also host the art in an upcoming exhibit.