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Residents drawing model, Mike Mitchell

Residents drawing model, Mike Mitchell

Drawing for dementia

Classes that bring art ‘to life’ for residents at a Hastings care home can continue thanks to further funding from the Big Lottery Fund. Hastings Court on The Ridge has been running the classes, which use a life model, in collaboration with Hastings artist and author, Judy Parkinson, for just over a year.

“These classes offer something different to people in residential care,” said Judy. “Unlike some art activities, this is an active, engaged class that also encourages reminiscence, as residents, particularly the men, think back to when their own bodies were fit and strong like the model’s.

“Although people won’t necessarily remember what they drew last time, they grow in confidence and the pictures they produce are wonderful.”

The sessions form the ‘Drawing Life’ project. It has been reviewed by behavioural neurologist, Dr Paresh Malhotra, from Charing Cross Hospital in London, who describes it as having “a lot of value” and there is also interest in the project from researchers at Brighton University and Kings College, London.

Resident John Wollatt works on his picture with art teacher Robert Sample

Resident John Wollatt works on his picture with art teacher Robert Sample

Around ten residents take part each week, many of whom have dementia. Home manager, Georgina Gamble, says the classes complement the range of activities the home offers.

“Art is known to have benefits for people with dementia, such as boosting their self-esteem, offering them an outlet for emotions and memories, and also helping with their communication.

“Having a person to draw seems to enhance this. You can see residents concentrating and really looking. It’s a markedly different response to if they draw a bowl of fruit or copy a landscape.”

Janet Hemsley has dementia and takes part in every class, sometimes with her daughter, Sarah Overbury. “It helps us to communicate,” said Sarah. “It isn’t always easy to talk to Mum but this gives us something to work on together, it’s fantastic.”

Another regular student is John Wollatt. “It makes us smile,” he said, “because that’s what we’re here to do!”

Life model, Mike Mitchell, describes the classes as “tremendously moving.”

“My mother had dementia. She loved nature and would spend a lot of time looking at the view out of the window, but her brain wasn’t really active, it wasn’t firing. To see these people engaged and involved, and reflecting on their drawings has been amazing. It’s been a very intimate experience for me.”

Judy, who has written a book about memory, first tried out the classes last year and is hoping to soon stage an exhibition of the residents’ work at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and in London.

“I want people to see what’s been produced,” she said. “Residents have used charcoal and chalk which has added to the sensory experience, and they have such a sense of achievement when they see a framed drawing on the wall.”

For more information visit: Drawing For Life.

The class underway

The class underway


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Posted 01:52 Friday, May 5, 2017 In: Arts News

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