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By Dr Tom Christie

August 8th, 2014

VISUAL ART IN ACTION: ‘Taking a View’ at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Installation artwork is one of the most arresting and creatively vibrant of all the creative arts.  Supporting people who are affected by dementia to enjoy and appreciate sculpture is, therefore, very important in aiding them to make the most of this exciting node of artistic expression, and can be enormously beneficial both for a person with dementia and their carers.

Running from May to July this year, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been operating a series of art and landscape tours entitled ‘Taking a View’, an initiative which was specifically developed for the involvement of people who have dementia.  Carefully developed to ensure that each individual has the potential to make the most of the experience, sessions were designed to allow an opportunity for people with dementia and their carers to visit the sculpture park, view the rich and varied visual artwork which is on display, and then be involved in sessions where they are invited to create their own art under the supervision of trained practitioners.

‘Taking a View’ sessions typically lasted for four and a half hours, and over the course of the period that the park operated the events people with dementia attended both on an independent basis, where they were present in parties alongside their carer, or in groups organised by community care pathways.  Developed in collaboration with the South-West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the award-winning Arts and Dementia Access Project, these art tours presented an opportunity for people who have dementia to engage with visual artwork in a manner which was welcoming and fully supported by arts professionals, allowing attendees to engage with the artwork in the most effective and enjoyable manner possible.  The sessions also provided an opportunity for social interaction, encouraging participants to discuss their views on the visual art within the sculpture park and also, where appropriate, to consider any nostalgic qualities of certain exhibits in relation to their own life experiences.

By combining art appreciation with a practical and supportive means of artistic expression, ‘Taking a View’ maximised the opportunity for people who are affected by dementia to engage with visual art in a pleasurable and meaningful way.  However, the programme has left an equally valuable legacy in that it provided a range of educational training events for care staff throughout the area, where art professionals from Yorkshire Sculpture Park were involved in instructing staff from care homes in different techniques to encourage sensory and creative stimulation in people who have dementia.  These sessions have ensured that the underlying ethos of the ‘Taking a View’ programme will continue to develop and be built upon in the community over the years to come.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s ambitious and highly effective initiative has set a high watermark for future educational strategies which focus upon visual art, and certainly must be commended for its determination to put the requirements and personal experience of people with dementia at the very centre of its remit.  In combining the proven benefits of reminiscence with innovative techniques designed to aid people affected by dementia in expressing their own artistic impulses, ‘Taking a View’ presented the kind of programme which proved the capacity for the arts to change attitudes and to influence the way that people envisage the world around them, irrespective of their relationship with dementia.