ADRIAN – Several organizations, nonprofits, and businesses in Adrian and Southeast Michigan recently came together to bring art and creativity to people affected by memory loss, including Alzheimer's and dementia.
The I'm Still Here art collaboration was made possible by Tecumseh artist Patricia Deer and has been in the works for several years, he said. In 2020, she initially wanted to work with non-profit organizations and institutions that help people with dementia and memory loss. However, their plans have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When he was able to coordinate and bring everything together for this year's collaboration, the results were encouraging, he said.
"The months that the world was shut down because of COVID should be the first collaborations with nonprofits," Deere said. "It took some time to figure out how to do this with nonprofit and vulnerable communities as we began to adapt to the pandemic."
Seeing local artists and people with amnesia collaborate to create a series of artworks brought tears to her eyes, Deere says.
"I really didn't know what to expect," he said. "This project is really about community support and support and bringing people and families together."
I'm still here representing Touch of Home Adult Daycare and Assisted Living at Gaslight Village in Adrian. In addition to Deer, there are more than 10 artists who have worked with people with amnesia on their art projects, or artists who simply submitted their work to be included in the exhibition, which opens to the public in November and runs through December . .
On November 29th, a public reception was held at the Adrian County Library in downtown Adrian where artists and members of the memory loss community could come together and share their art. Deere Electric Inc. and D&P Communications also support artistic collaborations.
Many images of the artwork can be viewed online at patriciadeere.artstorefronts.com/art-collab-with-crissy-jan. The site also features in-depth interviews with several artists sharing their collaboration experiences. This artwork was made possible by donations raised by the Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Deere said he did not dictate how the pairing came about. Some couples go back and forth until they complete a work of art, while others combine multiple people living with Alzheimer's into one work of art. Still, Deere says it's been an inspiring process.
"One of the women was an accomplished artist before she was diagnosed," he said. "When he came in, he just turned around."
Each team is made up of artists inspired by the Alzheimer's or Dementia community. This can be a person currently living with the disease, a person who has died from complications, a caregiver, or a family member or friend who is affected in their own way.
For example, at the Alzheimer's Association, several people work together to create a masterpiece made entirely of finger paint. The end result is a color collage that the Alzheimer's Association is printing on Christmas cards this year, Deere says.
Touch of Home Adult Daycare sponsors classes on beads and how artists can manipulate those beads. Another artistic team consists of mother and daughter, says Deer. Even if she suffers from memory loss, Ana will shine with passion when working on art projects.
“People often laugh, cry or share stories with each other. There are even some Guardians involved," Deere said. "It's really comprehensive. It's great to see how excited some people were when they found out their art would be part of a public exhibition. They just shine. It's great for them to feel important and to know that they are seen."
Deere continued to discuss the partnership after public acceptance closed earlier this month. He hopes to offer the same art project around the same season in 2023, but can adjust the schedule to coincide with an annual partnership with Lenawee County's annual Walk to End Alzheimer's event in October.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: An art project bringing together artists suffering from memory loss.