Ever hear an old song that suddenly brings back a memory? Like songs, paintings can sometimes be powerful prompts for reminiscing.
The AGO’s Art in the Moment tours invite people with dementia and their caregivers to explore the AGO Collection in tours that weave art with interactive conversations. The hour-long tours, organized in conjunction with the Alzheimer Society Toronto, are designed to give all participants a chance to discover their creativity, spark memories and shift the focus away from medical care. To find out more, we recently joined a tour.
Our Art in the Moment tour is led by AGO Gallery Guide Lauren Spring, who begins by asking participants what artworks they would like to see. The question helps break the ice as we learn about each other’s art preferences, and it helps Lauren tailor the tour to our specific group.
Then the tour kicks off and we’re soon in front of Claude Monet’s painting, Charing Cross Bridge, Fog, where Lauren gives us a brief history of the painting before asking the group several questions. To a tour-goer who earlier shared her love of landscape paintings, Lauren asks, “How does this artwork compare to the ones you have at home?”
When we view Pablo Picasso’s painting, Nu aux mains serrées (Nude with Clasped Hands), Lauren asks the tour-goers, “How would you describe this painting?” One woman answers that the woman’s face in the Picasso painting reminds her of herself as a young woman.
In front of Augustus Edwin John’s famous painting, The Marchesa Casati, Lauren asks another tour-goer, “How does Rome (where the participant was from) compare to Richmond Hill (where the participant lives now)?” This prompts the tour-goer to share a memory about what it was like growing up as a child in Italy. Throughout the tour, Lauren’s questions are often aimed at sparking long-term memories, which can be easier to recall than short-term memories.
Towards the end of the tour, we’re in the newly renovated and reopened J. S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art, located on Level 2. Here, the group looks at Norval Morrisseau’s incredible six-panel painting, Man Changing into Thunderbird. Lauren asks us questions about the art, “What stands out most for you in this painting?” Participants talk about the bright colours and vibrancy. One mentions how it contrasts with the softer brushstrokes of the work by Monet we saw earlier on the tour.
On this Art of the Moment tour, we’ve learned about art, each other and heard some beautiful memories along the way.
To learn more about Art in the Moment tours and other Access to Art guided programs, visit our website.
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Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.