Thursday, 27 July 2017

Looking at Me - an arts and dementia initiative

Artist Terri Sweeney has been running some innovative mosaic workshops at the arts charity Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindod Wells over the past few weeks (the last session was earlier today). They were specifically aimed at people living with dementia and those close to them.

Last week the PAVO meeting rooms were fully booked so we relocated to the Celf gallery for our team meeting. During a break I had the perfect opportunity to catch up with Anca Pancu, Project Co-ordinator at Celf, to find out more about how the workshops went.

Tell us more about your role at Celf

In this particular project, ‘Reaching Out, Drawing In,’ my role was to schedule dates and select artists to deliver sessions in liaison with the artists, volunteers and participants for each of the series of workshop sessions. I market our programme of workshop activities to relevant audiences and networks, manage the workshop bookings, and collect the relevant materials for evaluation purposes.

Who were the workshops for?

The workshops were for people in the early stages of dementia who were able to attend, communicate and participate in creative workshops. Sessions were free of charge for carers who were welcome to participate in the creative activities and socialise.

The weekly workshops are part of a two-year, European Union funded, Powys-based programme of arts & health activities (2017-2018). The programme aims to benefit over 150 participants and also includes:

  • 3 engagement artists’ residencies – working with people with a range of support needs.
  • Year-round weekly creative workshops for learning disabled adults at Centre Celf.
  • Outreach dementia support programme – creative opportunities for individuals in care settings & at home.
The programme is piloting and evaluating new ways of engaging with some of the most isolated people in Powys.

Tell us more about the workshops

Through our workshops we aim to reduce isolation for our participants, allowing people to develop new social connections and networks. We also bring disabled people into contact with wider society. 

We enable this process through exhibitions and events associated with residencies, improving communication and mutual understanding. We are helping people to develop new skills and to increase confidence which we hope will lead them towards engaging with the wider arts world. This is the reason we observe and act on the unmet needs of participants and we tailor work to support their needs and interests.

‘I wasn’t sure about the self-portrait mosaic workshop,
 if I will be able to do it, but the result surprised me, great fun!’

Why did you choose Terri to run the workshops?

We have chosen Terri Sweeney for the ‘Looking at me’ – mosaic workshops on the basis of her professional level of practice and experience of working with people with dementia. She works in a variety of media including mosaic, felt and mixed media painting and she has many years' experience working as an artist with people of all ages and background.

Why was there a focus on self-portraits in the mosaics?

This is a project that works very well for people with dementia. When they look down to their self-portrait they relate to their own identity as they are using an abstract manner of portraying. This method is challenging their preconceived ideas about who they are, it’s a reflection back in time: ‘this is who I am, this is who I always be’. 

It is a way for them to gain a better understanding of their condition in relation to dementia and to regain a sense of time, place and identity.

How did the participants find the sessions?

The participants were challenged by some of the activities in the beginning but they persevered and succeeded in producing mosaic work that they are happy with. 

They became more confident as the sessions went on, interacting with the artist and the volunteer. New skills were learnt and they interacted with each other and had fun. As the participants gained confidence they became more comfortable within the group.

What are the benefits of the creative arts for people with dementia?

The participants seemed to enjoy the social interaction of the group very much; they are very keen to come back. Through our research, preparation and running of these sessions they have learnt new skills, learning how to develop exercises that combine an appropriate level of intellectual stimulation with sufficient demands on manual dexterity. There was plenty of social interaction and with the right level of support the production of a satisfying result. 

At the end of the sessions they were pleasantly surprised by the standard of the work they have achieved. They have had fun and in the same time they have gained a sense of validation through their creative expression. ‘Looking at Me’ is not only about a memory journey, it's about finding strength inside yourself to do the best you can do, enjoying the moment, and the reflection of yourself in the present moment.

Do you have any other workshops coming up?

Trained artist facilitators are working with small groups, supporting them to use professional arts techniques and materials to keep their minds active and engaged. Examples include poetry and sculpture as well as sculpture, music and dance. The workshops take place year round in blocks of 6 x 2 hour sessions. The 2.5 hour workshops cost £3.50 to attend, and are free for carers. Participants should pre-book where possible.

All the workshops are listed on the Celf o Gwmpas website, but do get in touch if you want further information by ringing 01597 822777.

Many thanks to Anca for telling more about the mosaic workshops - and keep an eye out for more of their exciting programme of events and courses coming up in Llandrindod.

You can also read about Celf's 2016 project running sessional weekends for artists who have experience or knowledge of the arts and mental health.

No comments:

Post a Comment