Memories establish the past;
Senses perceive the present;
Imaginations shape the future.-
―Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut
“Let’s imagine that we are these people,” says Allison Fricke, assistant educator, to the group assembled for the Kemper’s monthly KARE program, as she directs their attention to the painting “Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through the Cumberland Gap” by George Caleb Bingham. “What might they be feeling? “Trepidation,” answers a gentleman in the front row. “What might they be hearing?” queries Allison next. “Wolves!” shouts out another of the group. “I’ll take the horse!” exclaims a slight lady sitting on the right. “I LOVE riding horses!!!” “I just know there is thunder in those clouds,” says an exuberant aid, getting into the swing of things. Allison moves on to see what the group thinks the settlers probably smell and wonders what they can taste in the air.
It’s all quite exciting. Yes, it’s the Kemper’s KARE (Kemper Art Reaches Everyone) program. KARE, designed and directed by Allison Taylor, manager of education, is conceived for greater St. Louis area folks with early to mid Alzheimer’s. While it may be only one of a myriad of activities and events at the Kemper it is the ONLY one of its kind in St. Louis, designed exclusively for this under-served population. In addition to our guests receiving an upfront and personal view of special art in the Kemper collection, they are treated to Dr. Alice Bloch’s interpretive movement exercises designed to get hand/feet and eye coordination in synch. And, in a neat merger of cross campus collaboration, undergraduate and graduate students in psychology under the leadership of Dr. Brian Carpenter, associate professor of Psychology, serve as facilitators for the group.
There’s no consciousness without senses and memories.
– Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut
Sensitively organized to elicit positive interaction with small groups of people and either their care givers or care partners, there is no wrong answer to any of the questions posed to the group. As we look at pictures with layers of meaning, there are lots of ah ha moments. The cry of “Oh yes, I remember it well!” frequently is heard ringing out through the second floor Kemper gallery. How special is this?
With Alzheimer patients almost always living in the moment, one can imagine our joy when one of the art therapists from a visiting facility reported that even the day after their visit, her people were still busily chatting about what they had seen at the Kemper and what they had done.
Done? What can one do in an art gallery? Well, Allison Taylor has organized a “do” for these folks. After scrutinizing (and do they ever) three to four pictures, talking about how the artists invite the viewer’s five senses to be activated, and feeling Daniel Boone’s buckskin and Charles Ferdinand Wimar’s Native American’s headdresses while on “The Buffalo Hunt” from our bag of touchable objects, the group has fun riding, once again, in the hugest elevator known to man down to the first floor and the classroom. Here the table is set with magazines, glue, and all the paraphernalia necessary for each of the quests to make a blue ribbon collage which addresses the five senses or any kind of object relationship of their choosing.
Nothing we use or hear or touch can be expressed
in words that equal what is given by the senses.
Snacks are proffered, encouragement and help is given by Alice Bloch, staff from the Kemper Education Department, and Dr. Carpenter’s students.
Artistic endeavors completed, show and tells proudly delivered and then, after hugs are shared, and farewells said; our visitors make their way to the waiting bus. For us and for them, the afternoon ends all too quickly.
We relish and cherish all of our participant’s comments. For example:
“I did not know what to expect. My mother told me she enjoyed the experience and said she would do it again. She does not talk much, but I could see she was totally engaged by her attention to the event and she expressed no boredom or anxiety.”
“My husband and I have been so fortunate. We get best of care at Memory and Aging and Alzheimer’s Association. Now the Kemper has provided the ultimate, the security of being with caregiver, while forging ahead and fortifying one’s confidence as an individual.”
We are all instruments endowed with feeling and memory.
Our senses are so many strings that are struck by surrounding
Objects and that also frequently strike themselves.
By Lynn Friedman Hamilton (Friday, July 26, 2013)