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Village Arts, Art for Life, helps long-term patients at HAMC

By Staff | Nov 18, 2016

Village Arts, Inc. has introduced the Art for Life program to the long-term care patients at Heart of America Medical Center.

The purpose of Art for Life is to help and revitalize residents living in retirement homes, assisted-living or long-term facilities. The program is designed to help eliminate loneliness, helplessness and boredom, and to improve the overall quality of life. Research shows that the arts, sensory-inspired imagination and creativity, are the last parts to the human memory.

“You may lose your memory, but you never lose your imagination,” Glory Monson, representative for the Art for Life team, said.

The program focuses on all areas of the arts, including the folk arts and the five fine arts, which are writing, painting, dancing, acting and music.

So far, Village Arts has completed two projects with the long-term care patients. The first project was on storytelling. “Time Slips Stories” had residents make up stories based on seeing photographs for the first time.

A photo was enlarged on an easel in front of the residents, and they also had smaller versions to look at individually. They then answered questions that Monson asked about the photograph. Questions were geared towards what the residents thought was going on in the photo, who was there, and where they were going.

Village Arts representative Bonnie Berginiski, who is also on the Art for Life team, wrote down each of the residents’ responses on another large easel. Once the story was completed and read back to them, it was named by the group. According to Monson, the stories will be printed and made into a book for the residents to keep.

“We did five stories with them, and they were absolutely wonderful,” Monson said.

The second project involved watercolor painting and poem writing. “A Quilt of Color Poems” was a sensory-inspired project that uses both music and poetry to describe color. Residents used a non-representational, or abstract, painting technique that Monson named doodle painting.

“In a doodle painting, the artist has complete freedom (and cannot be wrong) to use shapes, lines and focal points as one might use when randomly doodling with a pencil and paper,” Monson said.

Three songs about color were played for the residents, meaning they had three colors to choose from as their starring color in both the painting and the poem.

Art facilitators Mary Murtaugh and Rita Graber, along with HAMC volunteers, guided the residents through basic design elements, helping them to be successful in listening to music about color, writing a poem about their chosen color, and painting a watercolor painting.

“Watercolor is a great medium because it has a mind of its own,” Monson said.

After each painting was done, residents were given a template to guide them through writing their poems. Poems were attached to the dry painting as part of the work of art.

The finished paintings will be sewn together on a backdrop to make a quilt-like appearance.

A reception will be planned where residents may share the “Quilt of Color Poems” and their experiences with friends and family. The reception will be open to the public.

“This program is fantastic,” Monson said. “There’s a lot of therapy going on, too. They’re talking together and visiting with one another, and feelings are being brought up and felt.”

The Art for Life program in Rugby was started and is funded by the North Dakota Council on the Arts, located in Bismarck. Troyd Geist heads the state program, which has been in North Dakota for around two years now. Rugby is the 13th city in the state to have an Art for Life program.

The NDCA has been providing grants to Village Arts, Inc. since nearly its beginning, fifty years ago.

As for the program, Monson said they are always looking for volunteers to help in Art for Life’s efforts.

“We are wanting to continue, and we are trying to do other things for them. It’s fine to entertain them, of course, but if they can do something on their own, it helps,” she said.

The Art for Life program runs for one hour on Mondays.

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