“Will you tell me a bit about yourself?” I asked Ken the first time we met. He looked me square in the eye and with a grumble perfected over nearly a century said, “Well, I tried to bomb the goddamned world and that didn’t work, so now I’m here.” He put his head down and got to work.
Though his war experiences didn’t pan out the way he hoped, his artistic ventures were very fruitful. For two years, Ken painted religiously with the Memory Maker Project, an art, culture and advocacy program for people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of memory loss in NY's Southern Tier.
Ken had a dry sense of humor, a contagious laugh, and grumbly but warm presence. When music played, he would click his tongue along to the song with the clickety-clack of ten horses trotting in rhythm. He did this while creating an incredible body of earnest, playful, and extremely well thought out artwork.
During one session, he painted a very serene scene that diverted from his normal style. It was painted in various shades of green and appeared to be a landscape leading upward with a person reaching out to embrace the vista. He titled the piece, “The Pathway Home.” About a month later, Ken passed away.
Over the past two years, the Memory Maker Project has offered Art Workshops at the New York State Veterans Home at Oxford, developing new memories with residents like Ken, and deepened relationships with families and facility staff.
At each workshop, we see people—many of whom have both PTSD and dementia—come to life through their artwork. People who rarely talk, share stories from their personal lives. People who rarely participate, sit focused for an hour and a half; joyfully expressing themselves and making remarkable aesthetic choices.
Staff and residents are excited to see us every other week, and sorry to see us go. That’s why we are seeking funding to supplement programming at the Veterans Home, so residents and staff can benefit from Memory Maker programs even while our team is not on site.
Your donation will help us:
- Continue to provide two Art Workshops a month.
- Coordinate an art reception for participants and their loved ones.
- Install a permanent gallery space, showcasing participants' work year-round.
- Install a therapeutic Interactive Art Gallery with accompanying conversation prompts, as a way for staff and families to integrate Memory Maker programming into residents’ care when we are not present.
Thank you for being a Memory Maker. <3