Sacramento Director, Tiffany Paige, admires the drawing of a participant
in the creativity workshop geared toward memory care residents. The
art exhibit “In the Mind of the Beholder” showcases the
results produced in these workshops. —Courtesy photo
Minds’ Show Power of Creative Spirit
Jennifer K. Morita
by Mozart and chocolate, a group of first-grade students and dementia
patients put pastels to paper to explore what makes them happy
in a new art exhibit currently making its way through the Sacramento
“In the Mind of the Beholder” – produced by Eskaton and Artists
for Alzheimer’s – debuted last month at Gallery 2110 in Midtown and
is set to hit the Governor’s Historic Marble Wall at the State Capitol
“We discovered there’s a whole lot of interesting, creative thoughts
going on within what we refer to as the ‘uninhibited mind,’” Eskaton
Vice President of Public Relations Stuart Greenbaum said. “Memory care
residents kind of live more in the moment and probably have the ability to be
more creative than they ever were in their lives because they don’t have
the distractions the rest of us have.”
The exhibit features 10 oil pastel pieces created by first-graders from Kohler
Elementary School in North Highlands and dementia patients living in an Eskaton
memory care community.
ARTZ, or Artists for Alzheimer’s, is part of the I’m Still Here Foundation
based in Boston. The nation-wide organization links Alzheimer’s patients
with artists and cultural institutions.
Two years ago, Eskaton helped launch an ARTZ chapter in Sacramento with local
museum tours designed for visitors with Alzheimer’s.
“In the Mind of the Beholder” is the brain child of Greenbaum and
ARTZ Sacramento Director Tiffany Paige, who were looking for ways to help patients
tap into their creativity.
“We started talking about how different things could be interpreted through
the uninhibited mind,” Paige said. “We wondered what would happen
if we ran the same program with elementary school students and seniors, and if
we’d get the same expression of life feelings and emotions.”
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Paige facilitated separate workshops with memory care residents
and first-grade class of about 30 students and asked them to
create pieces depicting what makes
“We started with a brainstorming session and opened it up and talked about
all the different senses,” Paige said. “We talked about what tastes
make us happy, what sounds and things we touch make us happy.
“It was really sweet. One woman said that it makes her happy when her children
come to the table smiling.”
Chocolate and ice cream were at the top of the list for both seniors and first-graders,
so Paige started bringing chocolate to the workshops.
After the brainstorming sessions, the budding artists were each given canvas
paper and a pack of 12 oil pastels to draw what their happiness looks like
while a Mozart CD played in the background.
“In the end, we found that it was almost as if the children were discovering
what their happiness was about, and seniors were remembering what their happiness
was about,” Paige said. “The children went at it with much more fervor
and energy, while the seniors seemed to be much more thoughtful and had a different
kind of energy.
“The children tended to be darker and used their oil pastels harder, while
the seniors were just a little bit more gentle.”
Many seniors talked a lot about family, but none of them drew people. The children,
on the other hand, talked more about toys and games, but drew people, according
“The boys kept mentioning Angry Birds (video game) and robots,” Paige
One of the pieces in the exhibit depicts a cabin in Lake Tahoe, which was drawn
by a senior who used to vacation at the lake with her family.
“She was not very verbally articulate at the beginning of the program,
but by the end she became very chatty about sharing specific memories of Lake
Tahoe and the boathouse and where they went fishing,” Paige said.
“…It’s so important to keep them engaged and give them something
to be engaged about that brings back something joyful. You can really see them
lighten up and participate. It was really beautiful.”
The process helped evoke emotions as well as memories.
One man used a blue pastel crayon to draw a square, which he went over repeatedly
while rocking back and forth with the music.
“We sat really quietly with him and asked what he was drawing, and he said, ‘I
was a pilot,’” Paige said. “Then he put the blue down and picked
up black and started going over the square with black and told us that he was
a pilot in the war.
“We were stunned by that.”
The exhibit has already drawn the interest of other art groups and aging care
experts nationwide, and new shows are still being added to the schedule. In
October, the show will be showcased at the national Leading Age Conference
in Dallas in
an interactive pavilion open to some 6,000 professionals in the aging care
“It ended up being a much bigger, more sophisticated project than we even
imagined initially,” Greenbaum said. “We hope it will be replicated
around the country. It’s nice to create an opportunity to use art to improve
the lives of people who are dealing with memory care issues.”
Later this year, the exhibit will be on display at Blue Line Arts in Roseville,
where officials hope to replicate a similar program.
“We’ve done nothing like this so far, so it will be an experiment
in seeing how those types of groups respond to each other,” Blue Line Arts
Executive Director Julie Hirota said. “… It’s about tapping
into those creative neurons and accessing them in an unforced, more natural or
“In the Mind of the Beholder” will be on exhibit at the Sierra Health
Foundation’s Sacramento headquarters June 1-Aug 31 before heading to the
Blue Line Gallery in Roseville Sept. 6 through Oct. 18.
An exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum is tentatively scheduled for next year.
K. Morita is a freelance writer in West Sacramento.
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