Five acclaimed artists, from disciplines including sculpture and storytelling to sound art and dance, have taken up their ‘arts residencies’ at Chester’s newest specialist dementia care village in the latest stage of a collaboration exploring the embedding of arts into care environments.
Older people residing at Belong Chester are benefitting from the guidance of the artists commissioned by the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s contemporary arts centre, leading them in a series of workshops as part of their ongoing research project, entitled ‘Where the Arts Belong’.
The aim is to identify the conditions that best support resonant and meaningful creative engagements of older people in a care context, in particular those living with dementia. It also serves to inform Belong’s strategy to introduce staff trained in arts provision at its forthcoming Birkdale village, due to open in Southport, next year.
Charlotte Parton, experience coordinator at Belong Chester, commented: “The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. To see them engage with the artists, express their ideas and have the opportunity to learn new things has been wonderful – the Bluecoat and the artists have done a fantastic job in providing our bespoke arts programme.”
Once the initiative is complete, a highlights exhibition showcasing works co-created by the artists and Belong’s customers will be hosted at the city’s Grosvenor Musuem. An online symposium will also be held during Dementia Action Week (15 – 21 May 2023), giving attendees the chance to review findings and explore how it has helped participants since its launch in 2019.
Where the Arts Belong launched four years ago with pilot arts residencies at sister village, Belong Crewe. Academics recognised the wellbeing benefits from the relationship, which included high engagement, enhanced cognitive capacity and an increased sense of community amongst participants.
During Covid-19 lockdowns, participation widened to include Belong’s community care customers, bringing artists into their homes via video call, in a bid to tackle isolation by using art as a vehicle to promote wellbeing and social interaction. Trained virtually by the artists, the Belong at Home team of community support workers carried out one-to-one creative activities in addition to routine care visits.
More recently, the artists hosted Meet and Make Art workshops at Grosvenor Museum, offering a support network to those with dementia in the local community, and their loved ones, ahead of Belong Chester opening on City Road, last summer.
Tabitha Moses, project facilitator at the Bluecoat, added: “The artists, and their work at Belong Chester, are showing a positive impact on the health and vitality of the whole village community.
“As we know, creativity, self-expression and access to the arts are all fundamental to wellbeing and we can see the positive influence on customers, staff members and families alike. Long may the partnership, and these outcomes, continue!”