Positive Intervention

Face to Face’s Memories on Canvas program makes art expression a way of communicating and tying families together.

By: Dr. Nestor H. Praderio
Photos by: Gloria Gooding

A caregiver stated that, “Mom is always so aggressive, but when she does the artwork with watercolors, it makes her calmer and I can enjoy my mom.” These are the little meaningful things that Memories on Canvas has done for the family, the caregiver and the artist. Learning new stories about their loved one that they didn’t even know existed provides deeper insight into their loved one’s past.

One artist did not know what to paint. All he wanted to do was touch the paint and feel the wetness of the paint on his fingers. He was having such fun that the caregivers described watching him as something “amazing.” Another artist wanted yellow, yellow, yellow, and when asked why she liked yellow so much, her reply was, “Because yellow will get you a fellow.” Then she put down her brush and, looking at her artwork, asked, “Who painted that?” When she was told it was her, she continued, saying, “Yellow! Yellow will get you a fellow!”

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The artist’s expression calls out to us in a way which we cannot ignore. They create an awareness of this Alzheimer’s – this dementia. Our loved ones are educating us by revealing a unique interpretation of their memories through their artwork. Sharing this experience leads us to become more patient, understanding and compassionate with them because we want to learn more about who they are and, in turn, says much about who we are.

Journaling and support groups are proven methods of stress relief and a positive intervention for caregivers. Memories on Canvas is designed to reflect the reality of the Alzheimer’s and/or dementia patient’s perspective and strengthen family relationships.

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The creation of Memories on Canvas
Twelve years ago, Gloria Gooding had an art program working with seniors. Her friend, Marge, who had dementia, was part of the original group of seniors meeting at the mall for the watercolor artwork session. Marge created a watercolor art piece, titled “Spring Spectacular” part of which was used in the logo creation.

I was impressed with the program’s potential and asked Gooding to develop a similar program specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia. After writing the program, Gooding introduced me to Elizabeth Figueroa, an artist, and during our meeting, I shared my vision for Memories on Canvas. We discussed the logo and chose the painter’s palette, and Figueroa took a piece of Marge’s work and blended it into the logo.

Memories on Canvas is in its fourth year of showcasing the artists and their creations at various galleries. The caregivers and the artists attend these exhibits, and families are touched by having “something to remember” their loved one by. People always inquire about purchasing the artwork, but the artwork is not for sale because families want to take it home, especially if the artist has passed away. That is a legacy that is left behind, and they can say, “That is what I go back to.”

How the Memories on Canvas program works
We get started in March by contacting various facilities and inviting their activity directors to a workshop, usually at the Corpus Christi Art Center. Gooding goes over the outline and discusses the program’s details and criteria. Those who are interested in the Memories on Canvas program will attend a second workshop, where an activity director from Mirador, who is also an artist, provides hands-on demonstrations. At this workshop, each activity director becomes the artist in order to get a feeling of what it may be like when asked to paint. Examples are given on how to bring visuals out and teach techniques.

The program includes the following strategies:

• How to encourage and praise
• The kinds of paint brushes to use types of watercolor paper needed
• The kinds of framing and mattes to use
• The framing color (always black) and how to present it, with suggestions by the Corpus Christi Art Center
• Helpful hints with pencil, watercolor and supply lists

Activity directors and/or program coordinators facilitate the Memories on Canvas program workshops from March through October at their respective centers, then submit the artwork for the annual exhibit held November through December.

Each piece of artwork must include a title, the artist’s name, the original artwork and an art memory. While the artist is painting, the caregiver writes down the narrative and captures the stories of what the artist is reminiscing or talking about, whether it makes sense or not.

For more information or participation, call Face to Face at 361-238-7777 or visit us online at www.texasfacetoface.com.

“Memories on Canvas” is a registered service mark of Face to Face LLC, whose cofounders are Gloria Gooding and Nestor H. Praderio, M.D. Face to Face LLC is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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