Arts and Alzheimer’s program helps participants connect

Arts & Alzheimer’s Program Co-Directors Angel Duncan & Bernadette La Paglia

Arts & Alzheimer’s Program Co-Directors Angel Duncan & Bernadette La Paglia

A new program hosted by the Naples Art Association will help people living with Alzheimer’s and other associated dementias to make connections within themselves and to their families through the arts. The first class begins Oct. 1, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. A second program will be offered later this spring.

In this six-week, Tuesday morning program for participants and their caregivers, the emphasis will be on the benefits of encountering, experiencing and creating art. Naples Art Association Executive Director Aimee Schlehr says this program is exactly the type of opportunity the organization wants to make available to the community. “Art has the power to lift us up, give us a voice and is such a strong connection to who we are as individuals. We enthusiastically included the Arts and Alzheimer’s course in our offerings because we believe in the healing power of art,” Schlehr said.

Interactive gallery walks and conversations will introduce participants to specific works of art while engaging their reactions and recollections. This will be followed by an opportunity to create art in various forms in the studios at The von Liebig Art Center.

Co-directors Bernadette La Paglia, BSN, M.Ed. and Angel Duncan, M.A., MFT, ATR, will be joined by several guest presenters throughout the six weeks. Violinist Daniela Shtereva, who holds the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra David & Cecile Wang Chair, and internationally acclaimed pianist, Dr. Alexandra “Sasha” Carlson, are among the musicians who will interpret works of art at the gallery through music. Additionally, Dr. Natasha Lidow, President of the Opera Naples Guild, will be contributing to program development. Renowned local artist Paul Arsenault will be also be a featured guest who will lead a discussion on art and facilitate a workshop.

Each session will conclude with helpful, practical information for caregivers. In addition, emphasis will also be placed on the Medical Arts, factoring in the importance of exercise and good nutrition. Whole Foods will be donating box lunches to be enjoyed in Cambier Park.

La Pagila, an educator, artist and registered nurse emphasizes the capacity of the arts to accommodate an aesthetic approach to working with those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. “All too often, they are left out of the loop of life, but the arts are all inclusive. They enhance our ability to empathize, affirm and engage,” La Paglia said.

Duncan, an art therapist and mental health counselor, concurs. “We want to reintegrate them back into the community and help others recognize them as individuals, not as a disease. Having the means of coming to a safe and welcoming place in the arts bridges these connections. Here they thrive in a positive, social experience that sparks recognition, brings back memories, and increases their quality of life,” she said.

Tuition for the six week program is free, thanks to a generous gift from Peter and Stella Thomas and sponsorship by Moorings Park. Of note, Gibraltar Private Bank and Trust is underwriting Paul Arsenault’s newly published book, My Journey as an Artist, for each participant.

To register, please call 239-262-6517, as space is limited.