The Artist Within Exhibit Features the Creative Minds of Artists with Dementia

January 15th, 2016

-Painting by Joan Dolan
The Artist Within exhibit, featuring 51 artworks created by 43 different artists ages 60-101 opened at the Harborview Medical Center Cafeteria March 10, 2016 after garnering rave reviews at the Anne Focke Gallery during January and February. The thought provoking and profoundly original paintings are all created by people living with dementia. The exhibit, the first of its kind in the Northwest, is the brainchild of former Seattle International Children’s Festival director and founder of American Voices Lecture Series, Marilyn Raichle. The inspiration? Her mother, Jean, who forgot she couldn’t paint and began creating “amazing” works of art at Seattle’s innovative dementia day program, Elderwise. “My third act,” Raichle said quietly, referring to this project, her career, and the way her mother’s art transformed her view of Alzheimer’s, “is the best.”

orange meanie“Art is a way past the fear,” Raichle explained to me.”I showed these paintings to someone the other day and she said,’I had no idea! This turns everything I know about Alzheimer’s on it’s head!'”

Painting, “Orange Meanie” by Jean Raichle

What we know about Alzheimer’s and dementia can be scary:

  • Over 5 million people live with it and 1 in 9 will be diagnosed.
  • No medication cures, effectively slows, or manages disease progression.
  • Incidences of Dementia increased by 71% since 2000.
  • Support services are slow in developing and Dementia can be a disease of remarkably long duration.

Portrait of Paula by Hope Lawrence

Family incidence of Alzheimer’s and some Dementias can increase the risk of contracting the disease. Alzheimer’s runs in Marilyn’s family as she writes on her website: “I was raised in the shadow of Alzheimer’s with nearly everyone on my father’s side and many in mother’s developing the disease. We were taught that when Alzheimer’s arrived, it was like a death—actually worse than death. Our parents warned us, ‘Don’t sacrifice your lives for us. When our time comes, just walk away.’ And we all believed it.”

“And then Mom began to paint…” Raichle explains. Art and Alzheimer’s have one thing in common they’re transformational. They hold the power to transform identity and perception or to inspire. The bright cryptic art Marilyn’s mother produced, “opened my eyes to the fact that while her memory was fading, her spirit remained strong, inventive and engaging.” The artworks became Marilyn’s gateway to greater understanding and personal transformation. “I discovered how to slow down and, this sounds so Hallmark-y, but it tapped an ability to love that I didn’t know I had. It got me out of myself to listen and learn the value of real time.” Similarly, she’s hoping the The Artist Within exhibit helps to change the way society sees people living with dementia by inviting us to look anew and meet them as creative people with artistic voices; as artists.

Jean Raichle

“My mother was distilled to her essence–a happy, sunny personality,” Marilyn recalled, “She walked around all day long with her hands in her pockets and she’d stop and tell people how beautiful they are. I got to take that journey with her.” Not everyone’s essence is sunny and perhaps not everyone with dementia is bared to their essence but something happens in all cases that we generally don’t yet understand. To the lay person it may look absent, confused or just puzzling. With skillful support and access to the universal language of music, art, or poetry though many are finding that a new space opens in the liberation of former identity. Sometimes it’s a spiritual and beautiful place. The artists featured in The Artist Within exhibit give us a glimpse of that vibrant inner space and the profound re-seeing of reality that artists have been sharing with humanity for centuries.

artist f stoneThe Artist Within is easily one of the most interesting and surprising projects in my framing career, writes Mainframe who framed and provided logistics for the exhibit. “The artwork is float mounted using Japanese paper hinges, acid free mats, UV conservation glazing and reclaimed Pine frames from Urban Ashes.” Every piece is treated for gallery display and will be returned to the artists. Painting at left by Frank Stone

The Artist Within exhibit is on view March 10-late May at Harborview Medical Center Cafeteria, 325 Ninth Avenue. Admission is free.



Dotty’s Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person Living With Dementia

October 2nd, 2015

I first encountered “Dotty’s Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person Living With Dementia” when it was published within a blog at The Art of Alzheimer’s in July of this year. Authored by Dorothy DeMarco and originally appearing at the Alzheimer’s Reading room Dotty’s Ten Tips are republished here with the kind permission of her son, Bob DeMarco.

Dotty’s Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person Living with Dementia

1. You know what makes me feel safe, secure, and happy? A smile.

2. Did you ever consider this? When you get tense and uptight it makes me feel tense and uptight.

3. Instead of getting all bent out of shape when I do something that seems perfectly normal to me, and perfectly nutty to you, why not just smile at me? It will take the edge off the situation all the way around.

4. Please try to understand and remember it is my short term memory, my right now memory, that is gone — don’t talk so fast, or use so many words.

5. You know what I am going to say if you go off into long winded explanations on why we should do something? I am going to say No, because I can never be certain if you are asking me to do something I like, or drink a bottle of castor oil. So I’ll just say No to be safe.

6. Slow down. And don’t sneak up on me and start talking. Did I tell you I like smiles?

7. Make sure you have my attention before you start blabbering away. What is going to happen if you start blabbering away and you don’t have my attention, or confuse me? I am going to say No – count on it.

8. My attention span and ability to pay attention are not as good as they once were, please make eye contact with me before you start talking. A nice smile always gets my attention. Did I mention that before?

9. Sometimes you talk to me like I am a child or an idiot. How would you like it if I did that to you? Go to your room and think about this. Don’t come back and tell me you are sorry, I won’t know what you are talking about. Just stop doing it and we will get along very well, and probably better than you think.

10. You talk too much — instead try taking my hand and leading the way. I need a guide not a person to nag me all the time.

Seattle Walk to End Alzheimer’s August 29th. Register Today!

August 19th, 2015

This guest post is authored by McKenna Grimsby, Marketing Chair for the Alzheimer’s Association Washington Chapter Seattle Walk.

alz banner

The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide and 16 locations in our region, this inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to reclaim the future for millions. Read the rest of this entry »

Award Winning MemoryCare Plays Come To Seattle

April 27th, 2015


The MemoryCare Plays, three award winning one act plays focusing on the challenges of dementia, come to Seattle for the first time in May. The plays, “Steering Into the Skid,” “In the Garden,” and “Riding The Waves,” are directed by Taproot Theatre’s Artistic Director, Scott Nolte and will run two nights, May 8 and 9. All proceeds support arts programs serving individuals with memory loss and their caregivers. Arts and music are unique in their ability to promote healing, connection and purpose through all stages of dementia. Read the rest of this entry »

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