Recently, Dementia Australia acknowledged QAGOMA as a dementia-friendly organisation. QAGOMA is leading the way at Queensland’s Cultural Centre Precinct as it joins the ranks of organisations that have become members of the global Dementia Friendly Community. Dementia-friendly organisations demonstrate a commitment to supporting and enabling people living with dementia to remain active and engaged in normal daily experiences alongside other members of the community.
Since QAGOMA’s Art and Dementia Program kicked off in 2014, attendance has grown by an extraordinary 500%. The program, which has been developed around evidence-based research and contemporary dementia care principles, has supported the wellbeing of 1300 visitors living with dementia and almost 800 care partners. The Art and Dementia audience accounts for approximately 60% of visitors who engage in Access programming at QAGOMA.
While the Art and Dementia Program spearheaded QAGOMA’s dementia-friendly recognition, many gallery staff have completed dementia awareness training with the Dementia Awareness Advocacy Team, as well as Dementia Friend training through Dementia Australia. Collectively, there is a team approach that contributes to the gallery’s dementia-friendly commitment. Dementia-friendliness in return fosters greater inclusive practices, which enhance visitor experiences across a range of different abilities and ages.
Over the past few years, Art and Dementia program sponsors 20|20 Optical and Morgans Foundation have supported impactful additions that assist attendees living with dementia to remain active, socially connected and able to participate in the program for longer. For example, travel assistance has broadened the program’s outreach and reduces potential barriers that some may encounter in getting to QAGOMA.
During the program, participants are essentially guided through narratives and subject matter depicted in two specially selected artworks from QAGOMA’s Collection. Slow looking in a dementia-accessible, safe environment fosters and acknowledges perspectives and experiences of the viewer. The painting’s aesthetics stimulate neurological processes and create an island of stability for each person. Opportunities for reminiscence, validation and socialisation sustain viewer attention and may increase spontaneous communication. Following slow looking, the group engages in a therapeutic creative activity, which includes tactile and sensory-based elements to complement the art viewing, and further supports autonomy and independence.
One of the program’s participants, Kristin, is living with younger onset dementia and explains that being with the art in the quiet of the gallery, is very soothing. “We ‘experience’ a particular painting. As we admire the piece, we are encouraged to quietly explore the work …. what stands out? … what might be more subtle? With so many sets of eyes upon the work; we are each discovering something, that we may otherwise, not have noticed. The session allows quiet contemplation …. and sometimes, robust debate! Enthused by the earlier viewing, we are given the opportunity to release our ‘inner creativity’. Group members take charge of their inner Picasso and the materials at hand, to display different perspectives in their own artwork.”
QAGOMA’s Art and Dementia program is free and currently offers five separate in-gallery programs each month for people living with dementia who reside at home, plus their care companion. Programs are also available on request for dementia day-respite groups, community associations or residential aged care homes. Bookings in advance are essential and are subject to program capacity limits.
Debbie Brittain is Project Officer QAGOMA Learning
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QAGOMA’s Art and Dementia program is proudly supported by 20|20 Optical and Morgans Foundation