Programs like Artful Moments are all about social connection, trust and relationships. We want to make our participants feel as comfortable and safe as possible.
Ensuring consistent staff and routines are an important part of this. We have the same staff and volunteers for the full program. This enables participants to be familiar with our team, and us with them. This comfort helps participants to engage during the project, and also helps us to adjust as needed throughout the program.
At the AGH we have tried several different program styles – monthly, weekly, and occasional visits and have found ways to make each successful and meaningful for participants. However, we have found that the best results come through regular programs where participants have the time to become familiar with the routines, staff, and other participants. For in-person and virtual programs we offer weekly sessions in 8-week blocks. Week one is about introductions. We meet our participants and build an understanding of their abilities, interests and personalities. They meet the facilitator, and see how a typical program works. They see the other participants and start to understand how to interact. In-person, they see the Gallery for the first time and learn how to navigate through the space. We keep the first week a bit shorter to allow time for all of this. By week three, everyone has settled in, and have started to know each other. Trust has been established and participants are more comfortable and willing to share and offer opinions. By week six or seven they are quite comfortable, and seem almost like old friends.
We follow the same routine each week. We use the same gathering spot before the program starts. We do a quick welcome and proceed to the gallery tour in-person, or to start the virtual tour conversation. We try to use the same number of artworks or objects each time, and the same length of time. We follow the same process in the hands-on activity as well. When people know what to expect, they feel more at ease and safe. For many of our participants, a close relationship is built with the staff team. A sense of familiarity for people and places is often created, even when memory and recognition has been impacted by their dementia.