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Shanta Scott

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Arts and Minds: This Program's Bringing Creative Exploration to People Living With Alzheimer's

Remembering artists' names, and artwork titles is secondary to positive emotional and social experiences and the thrill of creative exploration.


Ten years ago when I began my career as an arts educator at The Studio Museum in Harlem I didn't imagine the program that would have the most profound impact would be the one in which participants wouldn’t remember most of the material covered. Yet, every Tuesday afternoon participants in Arts & Minds, a 3-year-old visual arts-based program for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and their caregivers, have had powerful experiences in the museum's galleries. Indeed, for the twenty men and women who show up each week, remembering artists' names, artwork titles, and historical information is secondary to positive emotional and social experiences and the thrill of creative exploration.

The first program of its kind in Upper Manhattan, Arts & Minds was spearheaded by Dr. James Noble, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at the Taub Institute, Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Noble was familiar with Alzheimer's programs at other museums in New York City, but noted that there was no such program in Harlem to which he could refer his patients. He partnered with museum education consultant Carolyn Halpin-Healy, who reached out to the Studio Museum to begin a series of programs accessible to people in Harlem and the surrounding area. Arts & Minds, now its own nonprofit organization, operates with a person-focused mission: to provide meaningful art-centered activities in museums, nursing homes, and community centers to create positive cognitive experiences, enhance communication, and reduce isolation.

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