‘Art on the Brain’: Exhibit showcasing artists with dementia is back

  • By TABITHA REEVES The Winchester Star
  • Feb 2, 2024 Updated Feb 14, 2024

WINCHESTER — For the first time since the pandemic, the Adult Care Center of the Northern Shenandoah Valley is bringing back “Art on the Brain” — an exhibit showcasing artwork by those with Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

The show’s resurgence will feature about 80 art pieces, according to Dawn Clarke, administrative assistant at the nonprofit center on North Cameron Street. Some of the featured work has taken up to a year to finish, Clarke said, and around 99% of the art is a collaboration among several participants.

“Not everybody with the disease can really express themselves very well,” activity director Whitney Lan said. “But during art you can see the person’s personality. You can see what they are trying to tell you.”

This is why the staff at the Adult Care Center doesn’t provide specific instructions or lessons for the participants, Lan explained. They are free to use a variety of materials on their canvases to add texture — a popular one being bubble wrap — as well as paint with brushes, crayons, pens, their fingers and beyond.

“Art affords individuals opportunities for creative expression and personal decision-making,” Clarke said.

Each team member plays a role in the exhibit, from the head director to the volunteers, Lan said, which is crucial to making the showcase an annual occurrence once more.

The center, which celebrates its 30-year anniversary on Feb. 14, is a “vibrant day program for individuals unable to stay by themselves,” according to Clarke.

Alzheimer’s — the center’s most prevalent diagnosis — affects about 10.5% of Frederick County residents age 65 and older and about 11% of Winchester residents in the same age group, according to a 2023 study by the Alzheimer’s Association. About 164,000 people within that age range in Virginia have the disease.

“Art on the Brain” aligns closely with the Adult Care Center’s goals of providing healthy recreational and therapeutic experiences for those who need it. Their website boasts having served over 500 community members from age 23 through 100.

“Art on the Brain” will take place Feb. 23 from to 6 to 8 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 132 W. Boscawen St., Winchester. Admission is free and beverages and light appetizers will be available for visitors. Art can be purchased during the exhibition or through the center’s website at adultcarecenter.net.

“It’s a really good event to raise awareness for what we do here,” Clarke said. “There are a lot of people in our community affected by Alzheimer’s but do not know that the Adult Care Center exists.”

— Contact Tabitha Reeves at treeves@winchesterstar.com

Generations collide, learn together at the Adult Care Center

  • By TABITHA REEVES The Winchester Star
  • Mar 6, 2024 Updated Mar 6, 2024

WINCHESTER — On Wednesday, children filed into the Adult Care Center of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, soon filling the room with songs, shouts and laughter — the bright attitude a stark contrast from the damp morning gloom through the windows.

For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit’s weekly intergenerational program is back. Clients of the Adult Care Center — those coping with physical or cognitive challenges often related to dementia or stroke — are given the opportunity to be “grandfriends” to 4-year-olds from Fremont Street Nursery in Winchester.

“They help each other’s heart,” activity director Whitney Lan said.

en kids and 10 adults joined together to engage in music and mobility therapy, developing a friendly bond that pays no heed to the generational gap.

Lan explained that the benefits for the older population can range from increasing self esteem to alleviating depression. It is also healthy for the young ones to partake in as well, since most of the activities are tailored to their age group, and many may not have a grandparent of their own, Lan said.

Participants were able to get to know each other on Wednesday. They began by singing a “What is your name?” song to a simple tune, which Lan led on the guitar, infecting both children and grandfriends with her bubbly energy.

As the event went on, even the children who had entered with initial shyness were stomping and grooving, some holding hands with their older counterparts, many of whom shared the moment with excited grins.

“I try to mix it around with social-oriented cognition and the physical,” Lan said, listing advantages such as to lengthen attention span, express themselves in response to songs, control their behavior and learn new language through repetitive, catchy tunes.

In addition to song and dance, the children and their grandfriends played interactive games, one of which involved passing a ball around the room, enabling each to utilize their motor skills.

It was the first time attending for Shayla White, an employee of five years at Fremont Street Nursery.

“I think it’s great for the kids, and I think they’re excited,” White said.

Having been with the Adult Care Center for about a year, it was also activity assistant Rachel Taylor’s first time witnessing the activity. Where Lan contributed primarily to structuring the musical elements, Taylor helped to form the more physical elements, as a first-year student in the doctor of occupational therapy program at Shenandoah University.

She is excited to be helping out not just for the good it provides the center’s clients, but also since it gives her an opportunity to apply her classroom knowledge.

Now that participants have begun to build a relationship, they will return on a weekly basis to continue to grow together and learn.

“Some of [the adults] are more active with the kids, but there were definitely a lot of smiles,” Taylor said. “It gets them up and moving. I think it’s helpful for them.”

For more information about the Adult Care Center, visit adultcarecenter.net. For more about Fremont Street Nursery, visit fremontstreetnursery.org.

— Contact Tabitha Reeves at treeves@winchesterstar.com

We were chosen as the beneficiary of one of the pancake days in May, 2022! This event is run like a well oiled machine and we’re so grateful we were able to be a part of it. It was a wonderful day!