Inspired by the ‘Meet Me at MoMA’ programme at MoMA, New York, Azure offers guided exhibition tours specifically designed to support people living with dementia and their family, friends or professional carers, to engage with the art work on show and enjoy a social museum experience.
Being in the moment with visual art
Ciaran McKinney, Head of Arts and Culture at Age and Opportunity, says the arts are increasingly recognised “as being really helpful for people living with dementia. In an interview with the Irish Times he spoke about how “It can be an experience of being in the now. It’s not about the past. Also, it’s not about needing to refer only to safe material. People with dementia have the same rights as the rest of us to be shown something that is challenging, new or avant garde. To really hate an art work is just as valid as loving a piece”.
As noted by Laurel Humble, assistant educator at MoMA New York, one of the biggest issues with Alzheimer’s disease is short-term memory loss. Visual art is an ideal topic of conversation for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s because you don’t need to call on your memory to look at art and discuss it. It’s all about what you are seeing in the present moment and how that makes you think and feel.
Connecting through art
Looking at art can be a transformative experience. Art can move us, prompt us to think or ask questions. IMMA’s Azure tours give people living with dementia and those close to them; a family member, friends or professional carer, the opportunity to visit the museum together. While there they can join with others to share in an art-looking experience facilitated by understanding and supportive gallery staff.
“The fact that I have Lewy Bodies Dementia, there’s areas of my life that are a void. It would be fantastic to go home and say “God I love what I saw and I’d like to take an interest in that. That would be a massive, massive plus for me.”
“I was really interested to see that something that’s not moving, on a wall, could stir up so much.”
“I was really gobsmacked at where it brought me to, sitting and looking at it. I kind of questioned, if I was on my own…would I just pass it by? Or would I have given the time?
“We could talk and give our opinion of what we thought of things and you weren’t a bit embarrassed. And no one would say, “Oh you’re wrong there.” Everybody had their own opinion.”
The Azure programme was originally initiated through collaboration between Age & Opportunity, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, and IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). The Azure Network has now expanded to numerous arts venues nationwide including the founding organisations plus Arts & Disability Forum, Northern Ireland; Chester Beatty Library, Dublin; Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; DLR Lexicon, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Arts Office; Galway Art Centre, Galway; The Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda; The Hunt Museum, Limerick; the LAB, Dublin City Arts Office; The Luan Gallery, Athlone; The National Gallery of Art, Dublin, and West Cork Art Centre, Co. Cork.
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