Help SPARK! Solutions

By: Jayna Hintz, curator of education on September 17th, 2014

Sunday afternoon’s SPARK! program for individuals with memory loss and their care partners at the Woodson Art Museum, September 21, 1-2:30 pm, fittingly follows Saturday’s nationwide walk to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.

SPARK! participant smiles at flowers

I continually witness sensory-rich, interactive SPARK! programs at the Woodson break through and ease the isolation and depression that those with dementia often experience. SPARK! participants gather to view artwork and engage in related multisensory activities that incorporate movement, music, scent, and tactile objects. During a recent visit, one participant rose from his wheelchair to dance with me, displaying deft footwork! Subsequent group discussions and hands-on art making often evoke reminiscing, laughter, and feelings of belonging. Participants – including the caregivers and trained volunteer leaders and partners – experience camaraderie while viewing and creating artworks.

Register this week to bring a friend or family member to SPARK! on Sunday, September, 21, 1-2:30 pm, by calling the Museum at 715.845.7010. These free monthly social events at the Woodson Art Museum are offered on the third Sunday afternoon of each month. Long-term care facility coordinators also can call to arrange customized SPARK! group visits on various weekdays.

SPARK! participants gather amid upcycled fashions in a Woodson Art Museum gallery.

Throughout four years, many participants have benefited from SPARK! programs at the Woodson Art Museum and nine other museums in Wisconsin and Minnesota, since the initial Helen Bader Foundation-sponsored training at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Friendships also have developed amongst SPARK! Alliance members – museum professionals who support one another through sharing materials, ideas, positive outcomes, assessments, and trainings. In addition, we connect with other associations and community members to work toward the common goal of creating quality life experiences for those with early- to mid-stage memory loss and their care partners.

SPARK! participants engage in art making at the Woodson Art Museum.Many of us plan to participate in the National Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 20, in various locations. To walk with the Woodson Art Museum team at 10 am at Athletic Park in Wausau, call 715.845.7010.

I’m especially excited to gather today at the Racine Art Museum with other SPARK! Alliance members to lead a conference and training for museum and healthcare professionals, volunteers, and caregivers to develop their own successful cultural programs for people with memory loss. My colleagues and I will lead panels, gallery experiences, art-making experiences, and discussion. Among the five sessions I’m leading or assisting with, I’m looking forward to one entitled SPARKing Creativity! I’ll share ways participants can develop meaningful, inspirational, and life-enhancing creative experiences for others.

Alzheimer’s devastating effects on an increasing number of individuals and families can be eased through SPARK! programs and the crucial social interactions provided. Who do you know who could benefit by participating? You’re invited to get involved by calling the Woodson Art Museum at 715.845.7010 to register for a SPARK! program or to join in Saturday’s walk.


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