Art & Dementia Program

The Art and Dementia program at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is a free, participant-focused experience for members of the community who are living at home, attending day respite or residing in aged care.

Research suggests that therapeutic activities such as viewing art improve cognition and enhance mood and wellbeing for people living with dementia.

The program format is structured around key principles of reminiscence, validation and socialisation. Viewing specially selected artworks in a dementia-friendly setting enables participants to draw on their own life experiences, interests and abilities.

Importantly, people living with dementia, and their care partners, can engage in a shared experience that enables them to feel included and connected with others. The program supports participant mood and wellbeing.

The Program

The program commences at the Queensland Art Gallery café where participants and their care partner join for morning tea, for the opportunity to re-orientate and enjoy a shared experience outside the general daily care routine. A tour is then hosted by a disability-trained volunteer guide who is part of the dementia program. This involves slow-viewing of specially selected artworks which may stimulate sensory and other cognitive activity.

Visitors with dementia are invited to join or initiate the conversation about topics that the artwork evokes or simply enjoy the social experience of a gallery visit. An art making workshop follows the 30-minute viewing, where artwork subject matter or colours may provide a stimulus for the hands-on tactile and sensory-based creative activity.

Exploring Monday Morning 1903 in the re-imagined Australian collection

Using inspiration from the paintings participants create their own artworks

Josephina about her work as Art Therapist

It is with immense pleasure that I work as art therapist at the QAGOMA in the Art and Dementia program. I work with Debbie Brittain, the QAGOMA Project Officer to develop a specially designed therapeutic activity that dementia research suggests benefits cognition through further communication and socialisation. Regions of the brain responsible for supporting executive function and communication are activated during art making, which increases language and problem solving abilities and enhances participant mood and their sense of independence.

In my personal experience working with people living with dementia in the different phases of the illness, the art-making creates a moment of connection. A connection between the participants around the table who in their daily life may never talk to each other although they live in close quarters together. And also – maybe even more importantly – a connection with themselves!

I have witnessed that the illness in the brain takes away the ‘personal command center’. The person doesn’t know anymore where/who he/she is or what their hand is doing. The communication between the brain and the hand for instance can be lacking.

The sensory aspect of the art-making (holding a paintbrush, looking at paintings, touching paper, singing, listening to music) seems to be waking up the creative part of the brain. As a consequence, the communication between that part of the brain and the hand is stimulated.

The effect is that the person seems to be experiencing themselves as a whole again, which gives a sense of self-worth and unique qualities. The outer reflection visible and audible to the outside world (for me, for the staff of the nursing home, for family members) is ‘joy’ – “that was so much fun!”.

For more information or to make a booking

Bookings in advance are required and are subject to availability and tour capacity. Tours are suitable for people living at home, for community and day respite groups or residential aged care homes.

Contact the Group Bookings Office at groupbookings@qagoma.qld.gov.au or telephone (07) 3840 7255 to arrange a booking for the next tour.

Focusing on the now:
An art tour for people with dementia

ABC RN Producer Wendy Love takes us on a Gallery tour that is about more than just the art. QAGOMA’s Art and Dementia tours offer people living with dementia a chance to socialise, learn, and create their own artworks. The goal is to create a safe and respectful space for people with dementia to visit the Gallery with their carers or loved ones and talk about art. But more than that, being able to spend a good amount of time with an artwork can act as a springboard, triggering memories or feelings we hadn’t felt for a while, or make us feel connected to something we remember from the past.

– Listen to Wendy Love talk us through the program –

QAGOMA’s Art and Dementia program was developed in 2014 and is tailored specifically for people living with dementia. The power of art unlocks the imagination, is able to elicit memories and feelings, sparks new ideas and discussions, and for people living with dementia and their care partners offers a new space to connect with the artwork and each other.

QAGOMA’s free discussion-based tours aim to support reminiscence, validation and socialisation and focuses on specially selected artworks. Two of the works selected to trigger conversations on this tour was The Blue Alice by Charles Blackman and Morning ride by Kenneth Macqueen.

Taking in the bursts of colour in Charles Blackman’s The Blue Alice 1956-57 / Tempera, oil and household enamel on composition board / 122 x 122cm / Purchased 2000. The Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Charles Blackman. Licensed by Viscopy

Kenneth Macqueen 1897-1960 / Morning ride c.1946 / Watercolour over pencil on paper / 40.9 x 50cm / Purchased 2006. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Kenneth Macqueen Estate

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