Creating Multi-Dimensional Memories

It requires just a few minutes to conclude that Marie T. Zukoff, a nationally known watercolorist, keenly observes human behavior and possesses a naturally calm demeanor. Reflecting her personal painting style, which conveys tranquility and peaceful solitude, Marie gracefully makes her way around the room, giving attention to the residents attending class this afternoon. Marie has been teaching art at The Shores for several years. The residents know and are comfortable with her, evidenced by one’s request to kiss Marie as the class begins. For these reasons, Marie fits perfectly as an art instructor in The Shores Memory Support Residence.Creating Marie

Today, each resident fills in sections of a pencil drawing with watercolor paints on paper pre-cut to fit frames they had painted several weeks before. Pam Garofolo, director of the Memory Support Residence, says, “In addition to being more present in the moment with almost Zen-like focus on the task-at-hand, the residents are definitely more social with each other during art class.”

While not all are verbal, many discuss how many children they mothered and exchanged information on the number of sisters and brothers they grew up with. They admire each other’s work, articulating, “It’s beautiful.” They smile, laugh and encourage one another. As I make my way around the room and see Eleanor (not real name) painting a butterfly. When I comment that I have a butterfly bush at home which attracts many butterflies, she tells me that she too had a butterfly bush in her yard.

Some residents have a special affinity for a particular color. One resident wearing a vivid purpleshirt and matching purple nail-polish, fills her hand-drawn flower with purple paint. Marie uses humor, guides and delivers praise as she moves about giving each one attention. “Should I make all these petals one color?” someone asks. Marie answers affirmatively and recommends using brown paint for the center.

Marie reminds the group that they can choose to frame any of several flower watercolor paintings they have made during several classes. They thrive on the reassurance. A mother beams when her visiting daughter reminds her, “You can take your finished project back to your apartment.”

Creating resident paintingGarofolo makes clear that art therapy helps memory-impaired residents to maintain their skill and express themselves. “In their past lives, some engaged in crafts, creative hobbies or developed other artistic skills. The class doesn’t teach new skills. It’s more about allowing to them to connect with one another and be who they are.”

In the future, they hope to display their decorated and painted bird houses, three-dimensional centerpieces sculpted from paper, watercolors, felt decorated snowmen, painted wind chimes, acrylic painting, and more.

Janet M. Carrato is Communications and Public Relations Director.