ALLENTOWN, PA - When memories fail us, art inspires.
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m in awe.It’s just gorgeous. And every [artwork] communicates to you,” says Marty, “Every piece has something to say.”
At the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Art Can is a bimonthly program that links adults with memory disorders and their caregivers together; creating new experiences with art and refreshing the past for those who struggle with memory. The Museum’s program encourages participants to share ideas and stories inspired by the artwork that surrounds them to open a window of creativity, expression and well-being.
Once memory loss sets in, trouble communicating quickly follows. Experts say while memories fade, so do the abilities to speak and write. But art inspires self-expression, creativity and even reignites those memories long gone.
“When I first started doing research for this program, it became apparent that the community of people who live with or are affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia are very overlooked and are under served so we wanted to do this specifically to have something for them or their loved ones so they can have a place to come and they can have a nice experience outside of their home,” explains Adult and College Programs Coordinator of the Allentown Art Museum Abigail Simmons, “It’s so great to have people come in and be able to share their stories and have the art be the inspiration for that time to share. And they’re stories that you wouldn’t hear otherwise.”
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and by 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. Mike is one of those Americans. Listening to the chimes created by these Harry Bertoia sculptures conjures up memories first created overseas in Italy and the church bells of Pisa. While, gazing at this painting of cows feeding in pasture reignites memories of growing up in Freeland Pennsylvania on his own family’s farm. “We had ducks, cows, we picked eggs out of the brown….they were white but we had to go and pick the eggs up because my grandmother would say hey it’s time to eat and we’d go pick the eggs. We’d make butter in the old butter maker,” he recalls; “Oh God I can’t even talk now so many memories come to mind.”
Alzheimer's Disease is regarded as the only disease within the top ten deadliest diseases without a cure. There is no way to prevent it, or slow it’s process. But through programs like this, there’s at least one way to still communicate, be inspired and enjoy life while living through it.
“It looks like real people walking in a field of flowers and the skies are beautiful it just looks like life,” says Marty, “It gives me good feelings.I just love to look at art.”
But visitors say once their tour of the museum is complete, they feel a sense of renewal: unlike anything they’ve experienced in a long time.