September’s Memory Cafe featured a lively team of educators from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Using the arts to draw us together, they showed us the Chinese art form of painting pictures of bamboo. About fifty of us gathered in the the library’s spacious lower level. Colorful plastic cloths covered our tables, making it easy to distinguish our drawing paper and painting supplies. All of us eagerly dipped our special bamboo brushes into the ebony paint and made short pushing movements, replicating segments of the plant’s stalk. Then our educators showed us drawings of bamboo foliage and we experimented with wispy thin lines of leaves.
“I’m glad we’re only using black watercolor,” one of the professional care partners told me. “All of us painting with the same color puts us on common ground.”
Our common ground continued as our teacher said, “Now, we’re going to pass out large sheets of paper.” We all oohed and aahed and let our strokes grow larger and more confident. At the end, each person created a design in a small wedge of clay, pressed the clay into a red stamp pad, and adorned the painting with our own personal “signature.”
Of course, all artists need nourishment and we had wonderful treats courtesy of Kansas City Medicine Partners, Kingswood, Partners in Primary Care, and Morningside Place.
Want to explore using arts to draw you together? Here are some tips fromConnecting in the Land of Dementia, inspired by Berna Huebner, co-director of the documentary, I Remember Better When I Paint.
• Try different types of art in different venues to see what resonates with your partner.
• To add extra meaning, connect the artistic activity with something in your partner’s past.
• Invite an intergenerational mixture of artists, from children, grandchildren, art students, and volunteers to join your partner and add encouragement.
• Create a variety of art-related activities, including visiting galleries or looking at pictures from magazines, as well as painting, drawing or various media.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.