Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts 2015

The following post is written by Anissa, a current student in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts.  Anissa reflects on her shared art experience and the lessons she has learned from collaborating with a UM Coffee House Club member.  ~Anne Mondro, Professor of Memory Aging & Expressive Arts 

The Florentine street map painting proved to be a success! The ideation of this piece was inspired by a conversation my Coffee House club member and I had about our mutual wonderment of Florence, Italy – the art, the city, the people… We began with a taped outline of the street map of the city, painting the little squares of open canvas in brilliant, rich colors and layering the paint on thick to make for a nice contrast with the starkness of the white streets. At first we painted on separate sides, later turning the canvas to work on each other’s, and finally painting the whole area of the canvas simultaneously. After making the final touches to our painting, we peeled off the tape that lined the streets to reveal a truly captivating work of art. Where the tape previously was hiding under the paint was now a stark, bright white of the canvas to contrast with the marbled yellows, reds, and oranges of the land and teals, blues, and purples of the river. After much examination of the painting – relating the tiny shapes of painted marvels to masterpieces framed in a gallery, to bright jewels and treasures, and to different dimensionalities – my Coffee House club member came up with the perfect title for the piece, Kaleidoscope.

Not having touched a paintbrush since a freshman year foundations course, my Coffee House club member taught me a thing or two about painting technique and color usage. When we began working on the piece, I was painting bright solids of reds and oranges. By the end of that first class period, I began experimenting with more gestural strokes of the paintbrush like I watched my club member do. When I began using this technique and we were turning the canvas around to work on the squares that the other had done, the whole piece started taking form into the cohesive, collaborative masterpiece it became!

Collaborating on a project with my Coffee House club member did away with any stigmas and nervousness I may have had about persons with dementia prior to taking this course. Everything I have learned from our readings, discussions, and presentations, as well as conversing and creating a project with him has reinforced the idea that it is better to focus on what persons with dementia can do, and our role – as outsiders to the disease – in this journey is to help make the transition as graceful and joyful as possible!


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