'Art Fusion' Reaches out to People with Memory Disorders

By Allen, Mike | The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA), September 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

'Art Fusion' Reaches out to People with Memory Disorders


Allen, Mike, The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)


The Central and Western Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke have partnered in a program designed for people with memory disorders and those who care for them - and they need participants.

Called "Art Fusion," the program encourages participants to use art as a starting point to talk about the emotional reactions and recollections.

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will also be taking part by opening up one rehearsal a month to participants. A few volunteer musicians will speak to those who attend during a break.

"It's based on the nationally acclaimed program the Museum of Modern Art has been doing for years," said Sharon Celsor-Hughes, the chapter's creative arts director. The "Meet Me at MoMA" project involves hour-long monthly gatherings in which trained volunteers lead art discussions and activities with Alzheimer's patients.

Celsor-Hughes said she's met with Taubman staff and volunteers to train them for the program. The first session is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The RSO rehearsal session is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 30.

As of Sept. 18, though, no one had signed up for the program, which is free but requires registrations through the Alzheimer's Association.

The sessions are not meant to be lessons in art history or criticism. The idea is to provide a positive atmosphere for dialogue about what the art evokes in its participants.

"They will not be corrected or criticized," Celsor-Hughes said.

A lot of times family members caring for someone with a memory disorder become focused on what's been lost, and the patient becomes withdrawn, she said.

"Our programs focus on what is still there. Music, the visual arts, speak to that. Emotional reception is still intact." The experience can trigger long-term memories and encourage participants to discuss them.

In the works since spring, the first Taubman program is designed for those who can be cared for at home. Celsor-Hughes noted that it takes time to build one of these groups, as those in the early stages can be in denial or daunted by the disease's stigma.

The museum and the association are also working on starting a program for patients who require around-the-clock nursing home care, Celsor-Hughes said.

"Art Fusion" itself isn't quite a year old. Other institutions the Charlottesville-based chapter is working with include the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College and the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia.

For more information, including registration, call Celsor-Hughes at 434-973-6122 ext. 123, email shughes@alz.org or visit www.alz.org/cwva/.

Reading new plays

With the closing of Studio Roanoke, the region no longer has a theater company dedicated solely to producing new plays.

Yet, in the form of staged readings, the Hollins Playwright's Lab will bring a heap of new works to audiences in the coming months.

Todd Ristau, founder of both the Hollins program and Roanoke's late-night No Shame Theatre performance venue - as well as Studio Roanoke's artistic director during its first year - has revived one staged reading program and founded a new one in partnership with two downtown Roanoke nonprofits.

Ristau has restarted Mill Mountain Theatre's CenterPieces Reading Series. These free stage readings began at Mill Mountain in 1995 and continued until debt caused MMT to cancel its season in 2009. …

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