Monday, February 18, 2019

Art Express gives people with dementia creative outlet

An art expression class for people with dementia and their care partners learned of a new way of creating art that even one who balks at creativity may like.

University of Illinois Springfield graduate student Cheyenne Snodgrass told people gathered Wednesday afternoon for the Art Express class at Hope Presbyterian Church how they would work on abstract painting using acrylic paints and palette knives that day.

Established in 2012, the Art Express class is co-hosted by Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Neuroscience Center and the University of Illinois Springfield Human Development Counseling Program.

Art Express gives people with dementia an outlet to creatively express themselves without needing memory, management or verbal communications skills. It promotes creativity, self-expression, social engagement and autonomy in a supportive environment. Its goal isn’t to produce beautiful artwork, but that can be a by-product.

Meeting weekly for a 2-hour session on a semester basis, the class is led by Karen Lee, UIS clinical instructor of Human Development Counseling, and Maggie Schaver of the Neuroscience Institute, SIU School of Medicine.

Graduate students from the UIS Human Development Counseling Program, community and church volunteers also assist with the class, partnering with individual participants.

“I was out at UIS, and I had this idea that it would be fun to bring some of my graduate students with me so that they could get experience in art therapy and working with this population,” said Lee, a trained art therapist.

UIS graduate student Rachel Stewart was helping a woman Wednesday with the painting project, first asking her if she wanted to paint on a big piece of paper or a smaller one. “You get to pick,” Stewart said. “What colors are your favorite colors?”

 Stewart is in her second semester helping with Art Express. “I just really like working with people with dementia. I think they’re super honest, and they’re just genuine, and I like interacting with them and helping them to feel normal, even if it’s just for the two hours that we’re here,” Stewart said.

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 16, 2019.

Read the entire article online.