New ARTZ Group Tours
|ARTZ participants chat with ARTZ Massachusetts Program Coordinator Peggy Cahill in the Peabody Museum's Wiyohpiyata exhibition.
Comfortably seated before a large photograph of Sitting Bull in the Peabody's Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West exhibition, the group's discussion is lively.
"Is this the kind of person you'd like to meet?" asks a tour leader.
"Yes! I want to hear his story. He looks like he went through a lot of things."
"Weathered, he looks weathered."
"That's a good word," encourages leader Sally Sutton. She's an Endicott College senior, interning full-time with ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer's.
This fall, the Peabody Museum joined a group of Massachusetts-area museums that host ARTZ group tours for people living with Alzheimer's and related dementia. Tours are led by ARTZ-trained guides such as Sutton, and are carefully developed to reflect the neuroscience of Alzheimer's. The program was originally created with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and its success has spread to London, Paris, Madrid, and Cambridge, including the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
"It's amazing. You can see the joy and fascination," says Peggy Cahill, Massachusetts Program Coordinator. "The ARTZ model is looking together and learning together, with a focus on having fun. The idea that [ARTZ visitors] need to be treated differently is erroneous. We bring them into the community with an opportunity to express themselves."
ARTZ staffers visit the museums before the group tours, planning the route and carefully choosing objects most likely to provoke interest. Cahill notes that human faces and facial expressions are typically fascinating. "And there’s always room for curiosity and the spontaneous moments when people get interested in something else. We try to follow that lead."
In the gallery, Sutton asks if Sitting Bull is an important person. "Yes," comes the emphatic answer. "He has to be, because he's at Harvard—right in front."
"Does he remind you of anyone?"
"He's wise, he's serious, he looks like he has a lot of knowledge."
"He grew up, maybe in a war."
"Is he very confident?" wonders Sutton.
"Yes, yes. I think he's a leader."
"Isn't it amazing how a face can tell us a lot of things."
These museum visits are considered art experiences. ARTZ's website explains art experiences can significantly reduce dementia symptoms such as anxiety, aggression, agitation and apathy, while helping to maintain cognitive functioning, using areas of the brain that have often gone unused for years.
"It's almost like he's listening to us."
"What do you think he would say?" asks Sutton.
"We can solve this. Whatever we're talking about, we can work it out together."
To sign up for ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer's, see upcoming dates, or for more information, please go to www.ArtistsForAlzheimers.org.