Who are the Participants?

Museums, galleries and other cultural organizations have many unique audiences who visit and participate in programs with different stories, experiences and levels of abilities. Audiences come to museums for many different reasons, and have many different outcomes, but all hope to find something of themselves reflected and supported there. Unfortunately we know that some do not. This can be the case for people living with dementia. As their abilities change, their confidence in participating in activities may diminish. As dementia progresses, the person, or their family members or friends may begin to feel that participation in museum activities is less possible, safe or relevant. Our work with Artful Moments demonstrates that this is simply not true.

As museum professionals, we know that even people with little or no artistic background can be inspired by a painting that evokes an emotion or sensation. Historical or natural objects can do the same, inspiring curiosity and reminiscence. Engaging with art, historical objects or natural settings as well as other related experiences can be meaningful for ANY person, including those with dementia, regardless of their prior experience or current level of ability. It does not matter if they have previously enjoyed museums, or have been an artist, Artful Moments is for anybody. 

Because of the abilities and strengths that remain long after a diagnosis of dementia, art and object-related activities can be profoundly meaningful, and can enable a means of self expression, shared experience and joy.

In the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Artful Moments program, participants in the early stage of dementia who live in their homes or community and those in the late stage of dementia, who reside in a hospital setting have both actively participated in this program. With the necessary adaptations to accommodate a range of changing abilities, this program works for everyone.

What audience is right for you?

Following up on the community assessment for knowledge-partners described in Module 1, think about your audience and community. Will your program welcome participants from the community, or will you partner with a retirement home or care facility? What does your community need, and who are you prepared to support? What programs already exist? What connections do you already have?

[Activity sheet– community needs, and audiences already connected]