“A Place to Sit”
My name is Kevin Black, @kevinblack1983, and I am a dementia advisor for Alzheimer Scotland, @alzscot, based in Glasgow. I have worked with Alzheimer Scotland for 6 years now and prior to becoming a dementia advisor I was a home support worker and also worked in our Glasgow day care centre.
In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be asked to help lead a project that involved Alzheimer Scotland and Luminate: Scotland’s Creative Ageing Festival coming together. This project involved an artist working with people living with dementia to design and create their own pieces of art. The intention from the beginning was that the artworks created be put on public exhibition to challenge people’s perception of dementia and what people living with it can achieve.
Deirdre Nelson was the artist commissioned and she began working with people living with dementia in Glasgow who used the Alzheimer Scotland day care service at Oxford Street and Glasgow’s younger person’s day opportunities service (people with younger onset dementia i.e. under 65). The people in the project decided they would like to design placemats, coasters and a table runner as these were practical items that could be used in both services.
What was designed and created was amazing and was wonderfully received by all who came to see the exhibitions but the processes that the people went through to create them were so simple, and I would like to highlight these to encourage anyone reading this that you could do something similar.
Conversation, art and memories, a fabulous mixture
Before a paintbrush or pencil had been lifted people were already influencing the project and getting involved, simply by having conversations and talking about their lives, interests and the images that Deirdre brought with her. From this two very different themes emerged, those from the day care centre were drawn to images of dancers; “I loved going to the Plaza” Margaret told us while James said “The Palais, that’s where I always went” while the theme of nature came through from the day opportunities group where Sally said “I love butterflies, I just always have” and Sam told us of his days working for the parks department.
We can all be artists
With almost everyone saying that they were “no good at art” Deirdre gave people different ways of getting involved which included drawing or painting, tracing images, cutting images out, colouring in, making collages, choosing colours or making decisions about things like sizes and shapes. This allowed everyone to get involved and influence the project in a way that was comfortable and acceptable for them making it a real team effort.
We can all be designers
Over a period of weeks the project developed until final designs were decided upon and so the images created were scanned into the computer and sent to an online company who put them onto the placemats and coasters. People were over the moon with how their work looked when it arrived back and with the sticker on the back saying “created by designers living with dementia”. “I’ve never been called a designer before” one lady stated and it was a new experience for most involved.
We can all be art exhibitors
The exhibitions took us around Glasgow from the Alzheimer Europe conference, to the Centre for Contemporary Arts and back to our Resource Centre in Oxford Street, Glasgow with international interest in the peoples work. Not only were people from around the world admiring the art created but they wanted some of their own and so we decided to have more coasters made to sell. People are now placing their cup on one of these coasters in places from Leeds to Dublin, Newcastle to Belfast and as far away as Barcelona, North Carolina and Singapore. Knowing this was a real boost to the groups and brought them a lot of joy
Conversation, art and memories – what can you do too?
The original placemats, coasters and table runner are now back with both services at our resource centre, Oxford Street, Glasgow, sparking conversation and bringing memories to mind. Taking these very simple processes, offering people different ways to get involved and taking an extra step with peoples work to turn them into something practical made this project the success it was. I would invite you to:
- Look around your local community, what local landmarks are there or areas of common interest that could spark conversation?
- Introducing images and different ways for involvement can build on those conversations?
- Realise the potential of the people involved; and invite them to consider what they would like to create? You too will find amazing ideas and creativity in people living with dementia
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the project please feel free to get in touch with me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0141 410 0106.
As a dementia advisor I am here to support individuals with dementia, their families and friends through their journey, providing light-touch short-term support and information, signposting and connecting people to peer supports or appropriate services. In Glasgow I will also help local communities to become more dementia-friendly and to increase their capacity to support those living with dementia.