Portland Art Museum

artNOW program for people with memory loss and their caregivers in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum, Oregon

Museums and Communities News is our roundup of stories demonstrating the myriad ways AAMD member museums serve their communities.  

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In 2015 5.1 million Americans had Alzheimer's disease, and that number may grow to 16 million by 2050. Many art museums are now serving this growing population with special tours and programs - over 85 AAMD museums offer such programs. 

Following are examples from four museums of how art museums are serving people with Alzheimer's and memory loss.
Arts & Minds en Espaňol at El Museo del Barrio
Image of Arts & Minds en el Museo del Barrio by Carolyn Halpin, courtesy of El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio has partnered with Arts & Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias, to create New York's first Spanish language museum program for people with memory loss. 

Older adults in Latino communities have a greater risk of developing dementia than other aging populations.  Through interactions with El Museo's exhibitions and permanent collection, participants in Arts & Minds en el Museo del Barrio can respond, spark memories and create connections. Arts & Minds en el Museo del Barrio takes place twice each month.

Portland Art Museum's artNOW
artNOW Program at the Portland Art Museum.

Pierre-Jacques Volaire
French, 1729-1799
Eruption of Mount Vesuvius with the
Ponte della Maddalena in the Distance,
ca. 1770
Oil on canvas
Loaned to the Portland Art Museum as part of the Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection on view 10/10-15-1/10-16
The Portland Art Museum has partnered with the Oregon Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association to create artNOW, a bi-monthly program for people with memory loss and their caregivers that takes place while the museum is closed to the public.

Programs begin with an hour-long conversational tour of the museum, led by specially-trained docents. The tours are followed by art-making, refreshments, and socializing. Each program is themed; recent topics included the still-life and how artists use color to express emotions and ideas.

"Alzheimer's is a misunderstood and stigmatizing disease," said Sarah Holland, of the Oregon Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. "Programs like artNOW provide opportunities for those living with dementia and their caregivers to connect and create when so much of their days are about loss."

Discover Your Story at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
via Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Grace Goggin, right, a docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, used objects from the museum's collection to help adults with memory loss and their caregivers make connections during a Discovery Your Story tour. Photo by Leila Navidi, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The Minneapolis Institute of Art's Discover Your Story program was one of the first cultural programs for people with Alzheimer's or memory loss in the state of Minnesota. 

In Discover Your Story, participants review and discuss a small number of artworks with museum educators; instead of focusing on art history or interpretation, discussions center on the participants' own reactions and responses to the art. According to Mia senior educator Debbi Hegstrom, this approach can help participants access long-term memories and to "express themselves in what's becoming a pretty confusing world for some of them." It also provides a welcome distraction and some socialization for both participants and their caregivers.

Mia is a member of SPARK, a consortium of cultural institutions in Minnesota and Wisconsin that offer programs for people with memory loss. "Our audiences are growing older, and we want to keep our museum-goers active and show them this is a place where they can feel welcome and safe and supported," says SPARK coordinator Dawn Koceja.

Carlos Museum Participates in Alzheimer's research
Art and Alzheimer's Research at the Michael C. Carlos Museum
Art and Alzheimer's Research at the Michael C. Carlos Museum
The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University recently participated in a research study examining how art and photography impact those affected with Alzheimer's disease. 

A part of the study involved Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers observing artworks at the Carlos Museum and then creating their own works of art. An art therapist led the four weekly sessions at the museum and provided historical and background information about the art shown each week. View a video of this program above.

"The premise behind this project is to facilitate the communication and social interaction between caregivers and Alzheimer's patients," says Whitney Wharton, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and one of the study investigators. "It's about providing cognitive stimulation in a safe space and being able to potentially preserve the neurons in people afflicted with [Alzheimer's disease]."

The culmination of the study is a free concert on January 31, hosted by the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. "The Spirit Lives On: Art, Music and the Mind" will feature Atlanta Master Chorale and the Morehouse College Glee Club. Some of the artworks created by participants at the Carlos Museum will also be on view during the concert.

Register Now for Smithsonian Institution's 
Museum Day LIVE: Inspiring Women & Girls of Color
Join hundreds of cultural institutions across the country on Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Museum Day Live! when the Smithsonian Institution celebrates a nationwide campaign to reach women and girls in underserved communities.

Held during Women's History Month, this special edition of Smithsonian's signature "Museum Day Live!" event will encourage all people, and particularly women and girls of color, to explore their nation's museums, cultural institutions, zoos, aquariums, parks and libraries-which will offer free admission for the day.

The deadline for your museum to register is March 1, 2016

Peabody Essex Museum receives grant to expand Native American Fellowship
PEM's 2015 Native American Fellows: Jordan Dresser, Alexandra Nahwegabow, Ashley Tsosie-Mahieu and Halena Kapuni-Reynolds. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/Peabody Essex Museum.
The Mellon Foundation awarded the Peabody Essex Museum $750,000 to expand its Native American Fellowship program, which helps Native Americans acquire the experience, knowledge and skills they need to excel as cultural leaders. 

The program, which is now in its seventh year and has over two dozen alumni, combines on-the-job museum experience with leadership training in the critically important disciplines of organizational development, management, strategic planning, negotiation, creative problem-solving, fundraising, marketing and communications. This grant will allow PEM to accept more fellows, lengthen the program to 12 weeks, and create a formal mentoring program. 
"[The grant] offers an opportunity for more young Native American leaders to significantly strengthen their capabilities to be successful in many cultural arenas - be it in their communities or in the context of their existing institutions, whether it's an art museum like PEM or another organization," PEM director Dan Monroe told the Boston Globe.

MLK Day at AAMD Museums
Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art create greeting cards for MANNA at the MLK Day of Service in 2014. Photo by Photo by Andrea Nunez.
Several AAMD museums offered special programs to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art offered its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, featuring pay-what-you-wish admission, family activities, and an opportunity to give back to community by creating greeting cards for the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA). MANNA home-delivers nutritious meals to patients with life-threatening illnesses. 
  • The Museum of Fine Arts Boston offered free admission on MLK Day for their Martin Luther King Jr. Day Open House. Programs included tours of the Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection, which supports the purchase of numerous works by artists of color. These tours were offered in English, Spanish, American Sign Language, and as touch tours for visitors who are blind or have low vision.
    Additionally, students from the Museum's ten Community Arts Initiative partners commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through collaborative works of art.
Join Museums for All!
Museums for All is a new initiative, developed by our colleagues at the Association of Children's Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to offer free or reduced admission to visitors with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Museums for All is a way to broaden a museum's visitor base, and reach out to underserved communities. 

Museums that register will offer individual admission fees ranging from free to $3.00 to individuals and families presenting EBT cards.  Other restrictions apply; click the link below to learn more.

We strongly urge US art museums to participate in Museums for All!

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