By Liz Smith
One of the first sights welcoming visitors to the Judith Brogren Memory Care Center at Cedar Hill is the artwork splashed over the cheerful yellow walls. The artwork – lovingly crafted by the center’s residents – is currently featured in the Open Wall room at the Gallery at the VAULT in Springfield, VT.
The Gallery at the VAULT (Visual Art Using Local Talent) show – titled “From Our Hearts and Hands” — showcases work by both Cedar Hill Memory Care Center residents and residents of Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center. Many of these artists suffer some form of memory loss. Creating tangible pieces of art helps them cope with the ravages of the disease. Art programs encourage the use of fine motor skills, creativity, imagination, and conversation. They are also a means of expression for those who have difficulty finding words, using sentences, or no longer possess speech at all.
The show came together after Pam Crosby, activities director of the Memory Care Center, which is located in Windsor, Vermont, showed several photographs of the residents’ art to a VAULT employee, who then showed Marilyn Miller, the Gallery Manager, who organized the show. The Open Wall is a space set aside for community outreach.
Since then, Memory Care residents have been busy creating new projects for the show.
Resident artists get inspiration in a variety of ways. The great American painter Georgia O’Keefe’s work inspired several paintings. Resident artists use various mediums to capture artistic expression, including collages. Pam uses a step-by-step method to create the art while allowing the residents to interject their own thoughts, methods, and personalities into the pieces.
Everyone finds a way to participate. “Some pieces were created individually, while others are group efforts,” says Crosby. “The paper dahlias required many people to cut out multiple pieces. We then glued the pieces to a canvas frame. One woman can no longer use her hands for cutting, but she contributed by suggesting which colors compliment and contrast for more dimension.”
Creating art keeps the residents’ minds and hands busy, and it also boosts self-esteem by giving them a sense of purpose that can be lost as dementia progresses. Family members are surprised and delighted to receive art from their loved ones that they can display on their walls at home.
Working on the pieces together makes the “conversations between residents more lively,” Crosby adds. “People who are not actively involved with the activity watch excitedly and react positively to the projects.”
One recent day, scattered laughter and looks of concentration surrounded the large table where Crosby, several residents, and staff busily prepared their work for the show.
The artists are: Janet Bennett, Harry Black, Roger Blake, Charlene Bostrom, Virginia Buswell, Ethel Gross, Vera Melton, Kathy Morse, Fonzo Orizzonto, Thelma Shulins, Claudine Spencer, and Rose Temple.
The art show – “From Our Hearts and Hands” – will run from August 2nd through August 29th. The Gallery at the VAULT is located at 68 Main St., Springfield VT. Gallery hours are Monday 11:30 – 2:30; Wednesday through Saturday from 11am-5pm. Closed Sunday and Tuesday. For more information call 802-885-7111.