“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
~ Pablo Picasso
We had our first of five art:NOW sessions at the Portland Art Museum this week. Wow. Being with my Mom as she created art really did wash the dust of our everyday lives from my soul and gave me a rare glimpse of Mom completely happy and in the moment. It was magical!
The session began with the group viewing and discussing particular pieces of art work within the museum for the first hour. That was a bit awkward. Out of the five sets of care partners, only one pair had been in an art:NOW session before, so the rest of us didn't know what to expect, and I was particularly worried I had signed Mom up for something she was too far along to enjoy or participate in. But the docents were wonderful in drawing out their audience, even though the care givers spoke up more often than their care partners! And we learned a thing or two about the pieces, and a deeper understanding of the artist's process.
But it was when we got to the second hour, as we gathered in the art room to create a piece along the theme of that day's discussion that I fell head over heels in love with the program.
Mom is definitely further in her dementia progression than the other participants; I had to get the watercolor paint on the brushes for her, and placed those brushes in her hand each time - I did not see any of the other care partners requiring that level of assistance - but as I sat next to her working on our painting she giggled, she laughed, she made self-deprecating jokes about our piece, she responded fully, and with humor, to the two gals next to us, enamored of their pieces, and their faces, open to communicating in her own way with their banter and antics.
I was bewitched by this vibrant, if somewhat unintelligible, personality next to me, busy with her brush strokes, alive to those in her vicinity.
I now understand why Jan, her Opening Minds Through Art volunteer will schedule her OMA volunteering to coincide with Mom's attendance, even though I'm sure she has her pick of other dementia folks to assist. Mom was enchanting! I couldn't get enough of her. I looked around to see if others were having the same eye-opening experience with their care partners, and while everyone was smiles and laughter, I couldn't see the same incredulous looks on their faces that I'm quite sure was radiating from mine. Maybe they aren't there yet; their care partners may still be more fully engaged in the world than not. Regardless, it was one of the best hours I've spent with Mom since I signed on full-time to her cause. You never know with dementia if a particular experience, good or bad, is a one-off, but I am already excited to return next week. I hope we are both the beneficiaries of repeat performances!
I posted about art:NOW when we initially signed up for the program, including information on similar programs around the country and how to access them. You can read that post here and get all the info you need on how to access a terrific, rewarding, and engaging activity for you and your care partner to enjoy together.