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Healing Arts Program

…the most profound testimony to this program is the response of our participants when they are in the galleries and when they leave - their sense of peace and deep admiration is evident in their hearts even if they are not able to verbalize it to us. What a wonderful communication tool! I am excited about the future progress.
Carolyn Anderson
Activities Coordinator at Adult Day Connection

healing arts groupThere as been a growing effort to use art as a therapeutic tool for those in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Art therapy, practiced in both the appreciation of art and the creation of art, has been used for decades as a non-medicinal way for caregivers to help manage the disease. More and more museums are trying to bring this form of therapy into their galleries, using their collections as powerful ways to engage minds struggling with dementia.

Studies have established that art can provide people with Alzheimer's disease a way to express their thoughts and emotions. AD can affect a person’s ability to communicate due to cognitive, behavioral and emotional changes. Art therapy provides AD patients and their caregivers with a tool that can provide the ability to communicate in ways other than verbally.

Anecdotal evidence given by family and other caregivers provides us with a pattern: patients visiting museums exhibit increased verbal skills – even lucid dialogue. There is also improvement in patients’ moods for hours and even days after a museum visit or other art therapy experience. Sometimes there is an awakening of skills in the arts that was otherwise unknown in a patient.

The reason art therapy helps Alzheimer’s victims? The art experience, whether passive or active, is not just a visual experience. It is an emotional experience. Perhaps this experience is helping the brain fire neurons that had lay dormant since the onset of Alzheimer’s. Museum visits seem to spark these neurons by way of interpretive and expressive powers in Alzheimer’s patients.

The Museum of Art and Archaeology, in collaboration with MU’s Adult Day Connection Centers, and the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, provides bi-monthly tours to small groups of area early stage Alzheimer patients. Alzheimer patients also have opportunities to create various forms of art to be displayed at the Eldercare Center. The Museum has created reprints of works at the museum. These reprints are framed and hung on display at the Adult Day Connection Centers as part of a revolving art exhibition. The artwork both engages the patients and, it is hoped, provides a reminder of their trip(s) to the Museum.

healing arts classFunds granted to the Museum by the Boone County Community Trust support costs for the following:

  • Art supplies for Alzheimer patients - Paper, markers, watercolors, tempera, stencils, brushes, colored pencils, crayons, clay, and other media
  • Frames for displaying patient artwork
  • Reprints of Museum art and frames
  • Cost of transportation for visiting patients – bi-weekly visits

The grant has made a huge difference in the lives of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as in the lives of their loved ones, caregivers, and friends.

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Museum of Art and Archaeology | College of Arts and Science | University of Missouri
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