Every two weeks we get this amazing gift at The Bridge. "A" comes by an leads an art activity group. She is with the Alzheimer's Association here in Juneau and runs a variety of workshops and training for those working with, living with or coping with seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's. She is radiant with energy and ideas.
Last week her art activity was designed around fall leaves and watercolor painting. I assisted her and those participating. Before "A" invited the seniors to the table to do art work, she asked one of the aides to read a poem about fall that she had brought with her. She does this almost every time. It is her precursor to the creative acts that will follow.
"A" also prepares samples of art work before she arrives.
These simply serve as guides but do not dictate a specific outcome or creation. She highlights the process over the product. Too, she frequently creates a table centerpiece - or several of these - that again serve as visual clues for the activity of the day. Once she did this wonderful class on creating a beach scene and she brought with her these little trays that she had filled with sand and sea shells. She placed a few of these on the table and you could see some of the participants look up from their art work now and then to view them and to use them as an artistic compass to orientate them to where they were and what they were doing.
Last week, "A" brought with her a dozen or so pressed leaves that she placed in small groups down the center of the table.
She also placed red plastic cups at each setting. She put two paintbrushes in each. She explained that the red handled brushes were there to designate the cups as for painting not drinking. Therefore when one of the senior participants was using the other paintbrush, there would always be one in the cup to visually remind the cup's use. I take a lot of notes after "A" leaves so as to remember all of her good, good wisdom and knowledge.
As soon as one of the participants had paper, brushes, paint and leaves, she started painting. She did it her way. Yet, it so reminded me of work I have seen in the classroom with the botany cabinet. She painted an outline of the leaf with quick, short brush strokes.
She removed the leaf and then, while glancing back and forth to the leaf itself, she painted the veins and other details. The stem of her leaf remained me of a mouse's tail. It was long and curved. The painting evolved over 30 minutes. When it was done, she signed it. She started a second moments later.
Others traced templates of leaves, while some tried gluing them in place.
Colors varied from bright, pumpkin orange to soft, moss green.
Several completed their pieces and were satisfied. One participant, and this happens often with her, could not decide on how she wanted to place the leaves.
We celebrate the present moment - the only moment there is. The participant photoed directly above will not remember that she did art today or that any of the leaves glued down were glued down by her. We never insist a participant acknowledge their art work. We never say, "Come on, you remember. You did this with "A" this afternoon." That would truly be coming from our desire for acknowledgement. For an hour she expressed herself via fall leaves, glue and paint. That was the timeline of the experience. A half hour later, it no longer exists.
"A" reminds all of us, process over product. I am already looking forward to her next visit.