There are moments Ernie McAuley notices his wife is her old self again.

Like waiting for a test at the hospital, and her memories of being a nurse come flooding back, he said.

Or like sitting down to create a work of art.

“She would suddenly get wrapped up in it,” he said. “All of them do. They don’t just sit and stare into space. They all do something.”

McAuley was one in a group at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery (JNAAG) this week, putting a wrap on year four of the gallery’s partnership with the Sarnia-Lambton Alzheimer’s Society for the Inspirational Moments art program.

The program – originally called Inspirational Memories but updated to reflect the moment of creating new memories through art, said Anna Miccolis, community art and education coordinator with the JNAAG – involves monthly trips to the gallery where groups of about 10, including people with dementia and their care partners, view and reflect on artwork, then try their hands at creating some of their own.

This year demand grew to the point organizers added a second group, said Vanessa Barnes, with the Alzheimer Society.

“We’ve had some of the same people for the past four years, which has been fantastic,” she said.

McAuley said he and his wife Barbara started coming about two years ago.

She has dementia; he doesn’t.

She’s no longer well enough to attend, he said, but he keeps coming, connecting with people in the group, he said.

“I think it’s great,” he said, praising the organizers who always consistently come up with new mediums and approaches to the hands-on interpretation exercise.

Past years have gone from March to December, but next year’s will start in January – a result of increasing demand, said Miccolis.

The event this week, she said, saw participants receive a portfolio of their work from the year, and they were asked to share pieces and the memories they associate with them.

Some of the pieces have also been framed in a hallway in the gallery.

For the gallery, Inspirational Moments is about making artwork accessible for all, she said.

“There are people who have come out one time and felt very unsure about themselves, about how they would fit into the social construct of the group, who didn’t feel like they could make art,” she said.

“And at the end of this year, we’re seeing people able to pull a piece out and celebrate the fact that they did that and feel like they have a place in the community through this group.”

By Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer
Thursday, December 13, 2018

Original Article