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New Chester exhibition showcases creative arts approach to dementia care

An arts research project exploring how creativity can promote the wellbeing of people living with dementia in Chester is set to be unveiled for public viewing, this month.

Seen and Heard – Adventures in Arts and Dementia showcases the latest chapter in the collaboration between not-for-profit care operator, Belong Chester, and the Bluecoat, Liverpool’s contemporary arts centre. Artists commissioned by the project, Brigitte Jurack, Mary Prestidge, Jonathan Raisin, Alan Dunn, Roger Hill and Tabitha Moses, have spent five months working with the dementia specialist’s customers in their City Road home, as well as with children from its integrated onsite nursery. 

From June 17, their activities in sculpture, dance, sound art, painting and drawing will come to life through a fascinating exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum, with a dedicated space contextualising dementia and a film screening featuring interviews with the artists and participants.

Work including ceramics, paintings, postcards and even tongue twisters will be on display, alongside a timeline of the wider Where the Arts Belong project which has seen artists working with Belong’s customers from across the region since 2019.

The relationship with Chester commenced in the lead-up to the care village’s opening last summer, when the community began taking part in Meet and Make Art workshops at the museum. The initiative continues today, and a radio play created by the group is also to be included in the new exhibition.

Where the Arts Belong has earned numerous awards for enhancing the lives of its participants, for whom researchers have noted benefits including improved quality of life, increased confidence, enhanced cognitive capacity and feeling a sense of community and inclusion. A guide featuring activities from the project entitled ‘Little Golden Moments’, has launched to provide ideas for meaningful occupation for anyone caring for someone living with dementia.

In September, a symposium to be held in Chester will bring together the project’s findings, explore how it has helped those involved and discuss the wider implications for the use of arts in care environments.

Tabitha Moses, artist and project facilitator from the Bluecoat, said: “We are really looking forward to showing Chester the fruits of our labour. The Seen and Heard – Adventures in Arts and Dementia exhibition will showcase Belong customers’ great work, celebrate them and what they’ve achieved.

“We hope that the conversations that come out will go some way towards changing the perception of life with the condition and evidence the amazing impact arts engagement has, proving it is possible to live well with dementia.”

Caroline Baker, head of dementia and care quality at Belong, added: “Our four-year collaboration with the Bluecoat has proven to be highly successful, with our customers relishing the opportunity to work alongside the artists, learning new skills and enjoying the delights of artistic expression. We invite everyone to join us at the Grosvenor Museum to see the work for themselves.”

Seen and Heard – Adventures in Art and Dementia opens for public viewing June 17 at Grosvenor Museum, 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester, CH1 2DD. 

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