Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project

The Vault @ Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Exhibition from 1 May till 21 June 2020
Our Exhibition has been put on hold –
1 Barolin St, Bundaberg Central QLD 4670

Exhibition Statement:

What is the symbolism of leaves and people living with dementia?

In the process of change when the leaf turns into a different colour and character it may still hold onto the tree before finally drifting down to the ground to rest. The life cycle is a process of growth and rebirth.

The leaves remind us that people living with dementia leave behind a rich tapestry of colour and character that forms an indelible imprint on the family and friends to serve as a foundation for new growth and fuel for renewal. Even at this stage of the life cycle we recognise the beauty in fallen leaves as much as the beauty and story of everyone throughout their stages of dementia.

Cynthia Hoogstraten – Josephina Beckers – Kay Shelton

Artist Statement:

Cynthia Hoogstraten

Cynthia is a local artist, Dementia Friend and Dementia Advocate. Her personal journey caring for her Father and studying Dip. of Dementia Care led her to creating awareness of personhood in Dementia through the painting of symbolic leaves.

Josephina Beckers

Josephina is a Brisbane based artist. After obtaining her graduate diploma of art psychotherapy in September 2017 she started working with people living with dementia in the aged care sector and assisting at the art and dementia program in the Queensland Art Gallery.

Kay Shelton

Kay is a local artist, very attuned to connecting with people of all ages, enjoying their story and invitational to them sharing their journey and expressing it creatively through art. Kay is also very connected to nature and thoroughly enjoys the symbolism of this project and connecting with the creators of the painted leaves, seeing their enjoyment at getting to choose colours, play, create and speak about their life.

An Impression . . .

An Interview . . .

The Media about ‘The Leaf Project’:


MEMORIES are precious and like a tree when it can no longer preserve its leaves, the colour may fade but the beauty will always remain.

This is one of the many powerful messages Cynthia Hoogstraten, Josephina Beckers and Kay Shelton hope to convey in their upcoming art exhibition, Dementia is a Person: The Leaf Project.

Displaying a selection of bright-coloured leaves with intricate patterns, each leaf has been handpainted by a participant that has Dementia or Alzheimers.

“I always let participants choose the colours, because a lot of them have had choices taken away from their life, so at least they could choose their colours and how they painted the leaves reveals a lot about who they are,” trained art therapist Ms Beckers said.

“When the brain doesn’t communicate with the hand and they do something creative like painting, that connection re-establishes itself and what I saw many times was that they become a whole person again.”

The artistic trio started working on the project when they each had their own experience with the devastating impact of the disease.

“My Dad had Dementia and when he wasn’t able to speak anymore, I began bringing a different activity, like painting or music, so I could still connect with him,” Ms Hoogstraten said.

“Leaves symbolise the circle of life and the dead leaves that fall off a tree might be disregarded, but if you stop to pick it up, look at it and embellish it, you will see that leaf still has a lot of beauty, quality and individualism,” Ms Hoogstraten said

Some participants selected colours to represent water and fire and the environmental challenges that Australia had been experiencing at the time.

Anyone who wishes to submit painted leaves to the project, is welcome.

The free exhibition will open on May 1, at 5.30pm, at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery on Barolin St.

Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery:

Bundaberg Regional Council has announced the closure of the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery to protect against COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We will keep you informed about a new date for the opening event.

The Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) is a large multi-purpose visual arts facility located in the heart of Bundaberg City, and is within walking distance to major shopping centres, cafes and restaurants and the Riverside Parklands.

The Gallery boast a year-round program of local, touring and national art exhibitions, visiting artists, workshops, artist talks, educational programs, kids activities, guided tours, gift shop facilities, artist-in-residence apartment, public outreach programs and much more.

Our opening has been put on hold . . .

For information about dementia, advice or support, phone the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500

Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project – Facebook Group

Follow us via our Facebook Group (click here) or via this webpage.

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