Art shows that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them. – John Berger
Teri Miller, with the Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter, has witnessed the power of creativity and the arts. As the Early Stage Program Manager, Teri collaborates with Houston arts and civic organizations and encourages people living with dementia to attend the events, which have included viewing art, doing photography workshops, creating poetry, and spending time in nature.
“Attending these activities offers people a sense of normalcy and gives them something to put on their calendars,” she says. “When they attend with friends or care partners, they have a shared experience to discuss and they also have ‘news’ to share with friends and visitors. Even people who say, ‘Oh, I don’t care for museums,’ usually have a great time.”
Sam is just one example. He grew up in a small Texas town and has been attending one of Teri’s early stage support groups. His wife, who cares for him at home, attends a care partner’s group. When Teri formed a partnership with the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, she invited her early stage group to attend an arts tour with their care partners.
When Sam heard the invitation, he rolled his eyes and said, “I’ve never been to a museum and I’m not about to start up now.”
But the next week, Sam was there, signed up for the tour.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Teri told him. “What made you change your mind?”
“Well, my wife really wanted to go. She does so much for me and I figured I’d like to do something for her.”
Teri expected Sam to sit back silently, arms folded over his chest, when the docent asked, “What does this painting make you think of? Has anyone ever been in a similar setting?” To Teri’s surprise, Sam had opinions on each of the three pieces they discussed.
Sam’s wife smiled as Sam told Teri, “Originally, I didn’t want to go because I was worried I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to contribute. But I guess you don’t have to know anything about art to enjoy the museum.”
Sam and his wife discussed the experience all the way home, adding a new topic to their usual conversations. Discussing the art opened up chances to reminisce and connect. Plus the experience gave them something interesting to share with their grown children and visiting neighbors.
Like many art partnerships around the country, Teri was inspired by Meet Me, the MoMA’s Alzheimer’s Project for people living with dementia. Houston benefitted from MoMA coming to train their docents. The program offers comprehensive guidelines for visiting a museum or viewing art at home.
For more about Houston’s art viewing program, visit
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.