Cameron Art Museum is pleased to offer tours especially designed for Alzheimer's patients to connect with artwork and the memories often evoked when viewing art. Their caregivers or family members meet in small groups with specially trained docents to view and discuss artwork in a public space made safe and secure for participants.
Docents in the Connections program have been through specialized training in Alzheimer’s care-giving and understand the basic needs of individuals with dementia. Cameron Art Museum is committed to create a destination that is uplifting for individuals who suffer from dementia.
Begun in 2006, the Connections program at the Cameron Art Museum was one of only four programs of its kind in the United States. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has a similar program that began in 2006. With an estimated 5.3 million people afflicted by the disease and 10.6 million unpaid caregivers, Alzheimer’s has an enormous impact on society and within our local community. The Connections program at the Cameron Art Museum provides an avenue for inspiration and engagement to those afflicted with the disease.
On the day of your scheduled appointment you are personally greeted at the main door of the museum. The tour should take around an hour to complete. If an art project has been arranged in addition to the tour, more time will be needed. There is no cost for the tour and a nominal $1 for art projects.
To donate to the Connections program you may make a check payable to the Cameron Art Museum and designate “Connections program” on the subject line of the check. Drop off in an envelope marked Connections program or mail to Cameron Art Museum 3201 South 17th Street, Wilmington, NC 28412, Attention: Kim Kelly. You may also designate “Connections program” when you give to the museum during the Annual Appeal. Alternatively, you can donate online through the donation form
Sponsorship opportunities enable you to provide ongoing support to the Connections Program. Staff time is needed to develop and administer this valuable program. Docents must be trained for the specific needs of the participants in the Program and on the tours. In keeping with the Cameron Art Museum’s educational mission and strategic plan of service, the museum identifies four goals for Connections:
By Beverly Turner
As the cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is being sought out, we as family members, caregivers, assisted living facilities and friends are challenged on a regular basis with what we can do to inspire and add meaning to the lives of those afflicted with the disease. Our Connections tours at the Cameron Art Museum are an opportunity to provide refuge and inspiration to the individuals who are dealing with this progressive disease. Connections serves as an oasis for those afflicted and their caregivers, a life raft to float on within a safe and private environment.
It has been proven that viewing art “wakes up the parts of the brain that are still functioning without harming the parts of the brain that are impaired.” Our Connections tours offer caregivers a chance to be relieved of the stress and burden of “what to do” as well as provide them with a new understanding of those in their care.
It is rewarding also for the docents who are trained to give these specialized tours. They hold hands with the participants throughout the tour, bonding the love and appreciation of art between them and the participants. Art is a language that transcends the limits of speech and thinking. There is freedom in the galleries—there is no fear of “failure” as participants move through the exhibitions. The docents who give these tours are aware of the challenges that come with bringing individuals “out” into a public setting—that is why these tours are private, out of the public eye and safe. As participants engage with the experience of art, a frequent outcome for them is a sense of well being, of dignity and respect.
As we hope and wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the Cameron Art Museum Connections program and its tours are a positive activity we can do in the meantime, not only impacting participants but also our community.
Shaw, Gina. “Patients at an Exhibition.” American Academy of Neurology: Neurology Now (November/December 2006): 28-30.
What Are Others Saying?
“Being a docent with Connections tours, has been both enlightening and rewarding for me. As an example, a man on one of my tours was reported to be more verbal during and after the tour. Some Alzheimer's patients have real insight into art works that remind them of earlier experiences. I am pleased to be a part of a program which has been introduced in other major museums. Exposure to art and music can stimulate the brain, and sometimes provide connections to memories.”
“I like giving Connections tours because the people really seem to enjoy the artwork. You can tell that all the different colors and subject matter does bring back memories and that is very rewarding.”
“Giving a Connections tour is a very special time spent with folks who are being inspired in different ways each time they visit the Cameron. What I get back from giving my time and energy to this program is immeasurable compared to how touched I am after just one tour. It is pretty amazing how great you feel after walking through the CAM holding someone's hand who is in a different world and making a real ‘connection' with our art--it can be quite an emotional experience!”
“Knowing the impact that art and music has on people with Alzheimer's disease makes giving a Connections tour such a rewarding experience. Anything we can do to make their journey easier makes me feel very good.”
If the Connections Program articulates a community need you wish to support, please contact Kim Kelly at 910.395.5999 ext. 1005 to discuss support levels and benefits.
Connections is made possible thanks to the generous support from the Cape Fear Memorial Foundation, the Champion McDowell Davis Charitable Foundation and Mort and Judy Neblett.
SPONSORS: MANY THANKS TO OUR ONGOING SPONSORS FOR MAKING THIS PROGRAM AVAILABLE TO NEW HANOVER COUNTY RESIDENTS.
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