Art in the Moment: Exhibit highlights work of those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia

MARQUETTE — Art can serve as a powerful tool for communication, connection and joy for those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss, as well their friends and families.

For this reason, many gathered at the Marquette Regional History Center Thursday night for the Art in the Moment reception, which showcased and celebrated the work of participants in Lake Superior Adult Day Services, a day program for those with with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or memory loss.

The event aimed to raise funds and awareness for the program through the event, as attendees were able to view and purchase artwork created by participants, with all proceeds going back into the program.

“We have such a caring and generous community here in Marquette, the response has been wonderful,” Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice CEO Sue Rutkowski said. “We’re so proud of our participants and our program, and we want more people to know about it.”

The art show was a collaborative effort by the Lake Superior Life Care & Hospice, Marquette Regional History Center, the city of Marquette Arts and Culture Center and Northern Michigan University’s DeVos Art Museum, with area businesses donating frames, printing services, food, wine, raffle prizes and much more.

Due to the generosity of sponsors and donors, all proceeds from the event were able to go directly into “programming for more art, for supplies, for community outings; all the different things that our participants do at Adult Day Services,” Rutkowski said.

“We have the most generous community and county here,” said Darlene Weisinger, the volunteer chair for Art in the Moment. “It’s just fabulous.”

The work exhibited spanned a variety of mediums, including watercolors, silk scarves, painted tiles, terrariums and more, showcasing the wide range of projects that participants have created in the program.

The art created by participants can be a source of joy and deep connection for their families and friends, organizers said, as it showcases the enduring spirit and creativity of those with memory loss.

“It was just heartwarming, it was affirming for everything that they do,” Rutkowski said. “They’re working from their heart.”

Each program participant’s work was represented at the show, complete with a photo and brief biography to allow attendees to connect with the person behind the art. Participants and their families who were in attendance were also honored and introduced to the audience.

“Our participants, they were just beaming and when we introduced them and their family members, you could just see the joy; they’re so proud of their art and what they do,” Rutkowski said.

Attendees also had an opportunity to learn more about the program and the story behind the art show from multiple speakers during the event.

Art is a regular part of the Lake Superior Adult Day Services program, said program co-coordinator Tonya Pontel, as local artist Barbra Knox has “been sharing her passion with our participants and teaching them various forms of art since 2012.”

Knox’s creativity and care has been greatly appreciated, organizers said.

“Barbra’s dedication to coming to the program and doing art with our participants has just been phenomenal,” said Dianne Brohard, co-coordinator for Lake Superior Adult Day Services. “She is patient and kind with them, which is very edifying to us as staff.”

The opportunity for participants to create art and engage in other creative activities is especially meaningful, Marquette Arts and Culture Center Manager Tiina Harris said, as art offers “a window into someone’s soul.”

“Arts are important,” Harris said. “They’re a common language in our universe. And it’s something that no matter what side of the world you’re on, if you can paint or make something, you can communicate with a person.”

Marquette Mayor Fred Stonehouse also spoke during the event, sharing his own personal experiences and connections with those who have memory loss, as well as the city’s decision to proclaim May as Adult Day Services Month.

“The city of Marquette is certainly proud to proclaim the month of May as adult services month in recognition of what you’ve done,” Stonehouse said. “So we try from the city’s side to recognize that, we’re also very proud that our arts and culture department, as well as our senior services department has been a collaborator on events like this.”

The Adult Day Services program, which runs which runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette, is important, organizers said, as it can be beneficial for participants and caregivers alike.

The program offers participants a wide array of activities, such as art, music, dance, gardening and field trips, while offering caregivers respite and peace of mind knowing their loved one is enjoying themselves.

“We hear from family members that say ‘I don’t know what I would do without this program, I could not do this by myself,'” Rutkowski said. “And for me, I think about all the other people out in the community that we know have some kind of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And those caregivers have been working so hard to take care of them. It’s a full-time job and if we can help them just to give them a break, it makes a huge difference in their lives so that they can care for themselves and care for their loved ones.”

This is why raising awareness about the program is so important, Weisinger and Rutkowski said, as they hope to educate the community about Adult Day Services and reach more people with the program and the resources.

For those interested in having their loved ones attend the program, Rutkowski recommends calling the office, noting that Interested parties are encouraged to take a tour of the space and chat with staff.

The Lake Superior Adult Day Services office can be reached at 906-226-2142. For more information, visit lakesuperioradultdayservices.com.

The Lake Superior Life Care & Hospice office can be reached at 906-225-7760. For more information, visit www.lakesuperiorhospice.org.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.