The ‘We engAGE’ project came to life after Claire returned from a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2011, inspired by leading practitioners in Arts and Dementia across the USA. We engAGE is a digital creativity project that uses a sound model of best practice to distinguish which category of apps should be used to inspire creative confidence, with a specific focus on people living with dementia.
The main aim is to empower and develop Creativity and Innovation through the use of iPad Technology and the range of Apps on offer, through a Person Centred Approach. We engAGE is based around the ‘Present Moment’ / Imagination Model and designed specifically around a Person Centred Approach. New experiences are created through cross art form approaches, responding to that individual at that given moment.
The We engAGE project has worked successfully in a range of settings, from hospitals, day centres, residential care homes and in peoples homes. The We engAGE collective have designed various projects from developing Digital E-Books based on life stories to intergenerational projects working with local schools and community groups concluding in exhibitions.
‘Moving In’ is a collaborative project developed by artists Claire Ford and Kate Sweeney. It focuses on ways of disrupting and challenging traditional models of artists working in institutional settings such as care homes.
Artists, Kate Sweeney and Claire Ford moved their respective studios and created a new studio space in Northbourne residential care home in Gateshead.
Over a 5-week period they lived, explored, reacted and responded creatively to residents, families and care staff’s creative needs, stories and thoughts. Alongside developing their individual practices, creating new work, aiming to capture the ‘real world’ of a care home.
As artists, usually limited to time based slots in care homes; their main aim was to immerse themselves into the setting, removing any time based restrictions or limitations, working day and/or night.
With an ageing population, increasingly likely to live in a care home, and with critical financial and political issues facing the care sector in the UK, what role does the facilitator / teaching artist play in bringing a wider community into institutions such as care homes in order to encourage social cohesion and combat preventable cultural ‘syndromes’ such as loneliness?
Photo Credits: Kate Sweeney and Phyllis Christopher
‘Bringing Great Art to All’ – The Armchair Gallery Project was developed by Nottingham City Arts.
The aim was to inspire the viewing and appreciation of artworks through a digital Armchair Art Gallery and for it to be suitable for individuals living with dementia and older people in residential care.
The Armchair Gallery aims to:
- Enhance participants communication skills
- Raise curiosity about digital technology
- To inspire a greater engagement in the Arts
The following cultural venues partnered with Nottingham City Arts to provide an insight into their collection, which were included in the Armchair Gallery workshops and later in the ‘Armchair Gallery’ App.
- Chatsworth House
- Yorkshire Sculpture Park
- Dulwich Picture Gallery
- The Lowry
- Pitt Rivers Museum
- Mr Straws House
- Newstead Abbey
The App was developed over a series of years from an initial pilot with Chatsworth House through to an innovative, dementia-led App. During this time, Artists from a selection of specialisms, facilitated workshops in residential care homes, taking inspiration from a cultural venue.
These workshops then motivated the Nottingham City Arts team to create an App that could reach a larger audience of older people, living in care. Claire Ford led on the Armchair Gallery Training and designed and wrote the toolkits designed primarily for Activity Coordinators to download, directly from the App.
Photo Credits: City Arts (Nottingham)
Dementia and Imagination
The Dementia and Imagination Project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. There were three parts of the country that were included to research how various care venues differed when incorporating visual arts activity. The three included were the North East of England, Derbyshire and North Wales.
The research question was as follows:
Can art improve life for people with dementia and their carers?
- If so, how does it do this?
- And can it help people with dementia stay connected to their communities?
- Can it help their communities become more dementia friendly?
- Might there even be financial benefits for the UK?
Claire Ford and Kate Sweeney were selected as the Project Artists from the North East of England through Arts and Older People charity – Equal Arts. Over a year period, Claire and Kate worked in four residential care homes, which specialised in dementia care. Each workshop started with a different Visual Art starting point such as a Henri Matisse or a Yves Klein and these were then explored with each group, through multi-art forms and by incorporating the five human senses. Claire and Kate responded, improvised and partnered with the care homes to facilitate the most appropriate activities for the needs of their residents.
Photo Credits: Kate Sweeney and Phyllis Christopher
Equal Arts in Gateshead have secured funding to set up and support various cultural venues across the country to run Creative Age sessions. These sessions are primarily for people living with dementia. Celebrating the creative abilities of those involved, venues take part in a Creative Age Challenge, a week of awareness, raising funds for further creative programme.
Claire has ran sessions at:
– The Bowes Museum
– Washington Arts Centre
– ‘Lets Meet Up’ in Seaham
Perhaps you know someone who may benefit from attending these sessions? Contact information is linked above for your preferred cultural venue.
The sessions are run by a range of Artists in various art forms and a great chance to connect with others in your area.
Art Club at Rural Arts, Thirsk
Rural Arts in Thirsk offer an Art Club on a Thursday and Saturday for young people, aged between 5 and 18.
Claire facilitates mainly on a Saturday with a fun-filled variety of sessions which empower young people to be creative in a number of ways, experimenting and exploring new techniques weekly.
Claire is also the Arts Award Advisor for Rural Arts and this is also an offer for young people when they sign up to Art Club, ranging from Explore to Gold level.
You: Your Art
“‘You:Your Art’ was a pilot programme of arts activities that promoted wellbeing and resilience for residents in North Tyneside suffering from poor mental health. You:Your Art supports the prevention of people wanting to take their own lives, especially for those currently isolating and shielding during the Coronavirus pandemic”. This programme was supported by Suicide Prevention Small Grants Fund and Northern Sub Regional Suicide Prevention Group.
Claire was the lead Artist on this programme and worked with individuals to reflect and respond to their life through 10 weeks of Creative Journalling. All of the sessions were delivered on Zoom during Covid-19 and all art materials were readily accessible from their homes.
“Thank you so much to Claire for everything you’ve done, it has been a wonderful time and really helped remind me that life is good”
“I wouldn’t have done the course in person when it was first done but now I have the confidence to go out and do things in person”
“It has reignited my love for doing / creating when all I was doing was sitting and worrying”.