When I first met Violet I liked her instantly. She has a wonderful sense of humour and, I’m told, is a practical joker at heart. Every time music is played in the care home in which she lives, she is the first to be clapping her hands and tapping out the rhythms on the table. Inevitably this leads her into dancing (usually with the first person she can find).
But it was revealed that she also has an artistic streak too. In 2013 several original paintings were found in a charity shop in Sittingbourne in Kent with her signature on them. It had been known that she had taken up painting when she retired however we had no idea of how good she was. The paintings are wonderful; from scenes of market places in a variety of vibrant colours to still life portraits of fruits and animals.
The work was quickly brought into the care home and put on display in a room that she often frequents with her friends. We asked the family about these paintings who informed us that they had been missing for many years and had perhaps been donated to charity by Violet herself a long time ago.
It was this sudden fortune that gave me the idea to display these art works at a local art exhibition. However, I quickly learned that several people in the care home were also accomplished painters, seamstresses and artists. The idea for our Dementia Inspired Art Exhibition was born.
What better way to celebrate the lives and achievements of people with dementia, and raise awareness about what goes on in care homes than to hold a display for the general public. Our search took us across Swale and we had twenty people, living with dementia, exhibit in our show in 2014.
We were fortunate to have Violet attend her first exhibition, which was held at the Art in the Park festival in Kent, who met fellow artists and the admiring public. She was smiling and chatting enthusiastically throughout.
Then in November 2015, we were able to hold our first week long residency in Bourne Creatives again in Sittingbourne, showcasing more work from people living with dementia across Kent. It, again was received with much praise. Our aim is now to run an art show every year to try and encourage both people living with dementia to continue producing new works for exhibition and the general public to celebrate the talents that they still have. It is hoped that this will encourage those who see it to change their views and help those living with dementia to still be recognized as people with a contribution to make.
Below is a selection of feedback that we received from the art shows…
“A lovely exhibition. So pleasing to see that people with dementia can produce such wonderful work”
“Fantastic, thought-provoking exhibition. It is such a good way to raise awareness of dementia whilst keeping people’s dignity. So inspirational”
“A fabulous display of imagination and yet more evidence that that dementia does not have to be “the end”.