Remembering and forgetting

I’ve probably already written a post with this title but, you know what?, I can’t remember….

So, here’s another one. Last week I spent a lot of time thinking about my ‘other work’ –

The work I do with the elderly and people with dementia and in the community eg. Lights Up at Chipping Norton I went to a training day for artists who are part of the Taking Part Scheme run by Cherwell  District Council, Arts Development Team.

All the artists there work with older or vulnerable groups in the community and it is rare that we get to talk to others about our experiences. The trainers encouraged us all to collage our own little box for our business cards.


( What Business cards???.. Note to Self…‘make business cards‘).

While we made them we chatted…sorry networked..

We also had a go at making up imaginary projects, working in groups. Wow! did we come up with some good stuff…now for the funding… always the hard part..amand imaginary too.

Anyway it gave me chance to discuss issues of working with the elderly with other artist working in this fields and discuss the role of reminiscence/ art and its effect on a group. I

‘ll talk more about this later on but just to note that it doesn’t always lead to a ‘nice cosy feeling’ for participants and my Take Home feeling was again that I feel very, very uncomfortable with the role of the artist as therapist if we have not been trained professionally in art therapy.

For this the artist has to have specialist training and on-going therapy themselves. I am always concerned with these boundaries, I think through working as a therapist in a different field, myself.

When working with vulnerable groups and seeing the benefit that that artwork has, it is all too easy to want to ‘save ‘ people and believe that we and art can do that.

I, of course, do believe that art is wonderfully therapeutic, BUT when we go in to a group and work with them we are there to do our job, effectively and although constantly aware of and sensitive to the issues of our participants, and whilst building relationships with them, we are there as artists.

And the work we do is for them, not to make us feel good about ourselves and fulfil our needs…… Other people are skilled Social Workers, counsellors etc. We are skilled community artists. I

think we have to be wary of accessing sensitive areas of peoples lives, thinking we can solve all their problems and not necessarily being fully aware and mindful of the possible consequences for ourselves, or for them.

Anyway, the training was very, very useful  and, importantly, reminded me of this possibly contentious area Rant over.

The following day I went to a meeting of Creative Dementia Arts Network (CDAN) in Oxford organised and chaired by Maria Parsons

This was an altogether different experience, as although there were some artists, musicians etc there the group includes professionals working with people with dementia in a range of areas from NHS Hospitals, Care organisations, Outreach  Education and so on.

This meeting felt cohesive and productive and it was very helpful talking to others with a specific interest and expertise in Arts for People with Dementia. We were all given some background, physiological and social, about dementia and discussed the forthcoming conference in April .

For me the networking within this group left me with a positive feeling that I was with people with common aims and complementary skills and for the first time I felt that my own personal practice and research may be able to come together at some point through this group.

I was also reminded of my thoughts about arts patronage and the autonomy of the artist during this session which links a little with my previous rant written for ARTvsREHAB.

We discussed possible areas where funding for Dementia Arts maybe available and so the questions about what work, what purpose and a key thought about evaluation and how this can be done effectively to attract funding when  achievements are so difficult to measure.

All fascinating stuff. More about working with People with Dementia in another post! and Remediation……


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