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New Initiative Draws on the Healing Power of Art

MMoCA and Edgewood College Partnership Address Memory Loss

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

HealthSponsoredBy The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and Edgewood College are working together to extend the healing power of art to individuals struggling with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Residents from Oakwood Village who grapple with memory challenges are participating this spring in specially-designed art and art appreciation workshops at the museum.

As a part of a spring course offered at Edgewood College by Professor Janice Havlena, the program involves MMoCA’s education department staff and docents as well as Edgewood College art therapy students. Together, they have developed an approach that explores how the enriching nature of art can positively impact the lives of those who are experiencing memory loss.

“We are delighted to collaborate with MMoCA on this project. The museum — with its spacious and accessible galleries, designated education room for hands-on art activities, and leadership from the Education Department — is extraordinarily well-positioned to deliver the highest caliber programming of this type. From our earliest planning meetings over a year ago, the outreach mission of MMoCA and the Edgewood College Art Therapy Program emphasis on civic engagement have guided this project,” stated Professor Havlena. “The unfolding of our vision, to create a safe and enriching museum experience that will enhance the quality of life for older adults with memory loss, is very exciting to witness.”

With guidance from art therapist Denny Geller, MMoCA education staff and docents have worked alongside Edgewood College students since the start of the spring semester to design and prepare these innovative workshops. The program was put into practice on March 4, when Oakwood Village residents participated in a lively guided discussion led by MMoCA docents on works the exhibition, Curious Worlds: The Art of Ellen Lanyon. The discussion was followed by an art-marking experience in MMoCA’s classroom that was developed and facilitated by Edgewood College art therapy students.

MMoCA is adding this new dimension to its guided tour program and join a burgeoning art-therapy movement that offers therapeutic programming in museum settings.

“We are excited to work with Edgewood College to design a program that is meaningful for all participants, encourages positive emotional and social experiences for older adults with memory loss, and uses the power of visual art to tap into memories, storytelling, and creativity,” said Sheri Castelnuovo, MMoCA curator of education. “This new partnership aims to support the therapeutic potential of art using the resources of the museum.”

Art therapy in the museum setting is an innovative approach to tackling issues of memory loss and improving quality of life, which has been gaining support in recent years across the United States. Both art therapy and museum-based art appreciation activities have shown promise in improving areas such as attention, behavior, pleasure, and self-esteem in older adults with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.