Seven members of the Junior League of Dallas have spent each Tuesday night for the past year at Juliette Fowler Communities in East Dallas, where they served as art teachers engaging with residents with dementia and helping them create different themed pieces each week – a powerful way for those with memory loss to express themselves when they cannot find their words. The Artful Awakenings program was created by a Junior League of Dallas member in collaboration with Juliette Fowler Communities in 2017, and it remains a beloved program for the residents. While the activity is art, the purpose is meaningful engagement. Art is the backdrop for conversation and storytelling. The volunteers learned that each resident has purpose, and they simply served as the “tool to help them find it.
The volunteers shared that while many arrive to class with anxiety, they are joyful by the end of class. Each class triggers fond memories and fun conversation, and the residents support each other and thrive on the socialization – something that many withdraw from when memory fades.
This year’s art classes were led by JLD Project Chair Allison Gaughan, who is also a middle school art teacher who immediately understood the importance of this project as her grandmother had Alzheimer’s. In addition to Gaughan, the group included Jill Benoit, Tommie Ethington, Renick Hall, Caroline Hardin, Kari Harris, and Presleigh Watson.
Each year, the Junior League volunteers put together an Art Show of their students’ work from throughout the year at Juliette Fowler Communities. This year’s show was April 9. All artists, their families, and residents of Juliette Fowler Communities as well as the public were invited. Works of art, grouped by themes and seasons, included spring flowers, fall leaves, hand turkeys, and New Year’s fireworks. Because of the pandemic, this year’s show included 80 pieces of art from over a three-year period. An overview of the artists’ personal experiences while creating the work were included within each piece of framed art. These experiences are documented by the volunteers at the end of each art class.
As Rae Ann painted bluebonnets, she repeated how good it was to be alive and how beautiful and talented her children are.
While creating a piece with trees and applique leaves, Dorothy read out her family tree as far back as her grandparents and said she missed her sisters.
As Flo created her piece, she recalled summers lifeguarding and swimming, while her fellow classmate Gloria complimented her work talking about the beautiful fall colors of autumn.
While creating her piece, Dena spoke about her garden and how the bright colors reminded her of the petunias she planted each year.
JLD Volunteer Caroline Hardin stated, “Even if I hold their hands with a paint brush in it, they still see they are accomplishing something and creating something, and it is something very different from the rest of their day.”
“Artful Awakenings is a conduit to meaningful moments, supporting all that Fowler Communities has learned as an I’m Still Here® Center for Excellence –Fowler is the only certified I’m Still Here® Center for Excellence in Dementia Care in North Texas and one of only two in Texas,” said Nicole Gann, president and CEO, Juliette Fowler Communities. “Our I’m Still Here® engagement-focused program connects with those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias through abilities that do not diminish with time. The amazing volunteers from Junior League of Dallas are enhancing the lives of our residents living with dementia, bringing them joy and fulfillment.”
Families attending the art show enjoyed seeing the art created by their loved ones. Dora Garzon and her son Samuel enjoyed the show with Dora’s father Jose, who was all smiles. She commented, “Seeing the art pieces and reading the accompanying comments really touched my heart. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to see our loved ones in such a beautiful way.”
Juliette Fowler Communities is a unique faith-based, intergenerational community of residents at various life-stages. Located on 20 picturesque acres, Juliette Fowler Communities provides independent and assisted living, a Five-Star Quality Rated skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, memory care and affordable senior housing. As the only certified I’m Still Here® Center for Excellence in Dementia Care in Dallas and one of only three in Texas, Fowler’s program employs evidence-based techniques to adapt experiences to an individual’s cognitive abilities and strengths. It has also been named a Great Place to Work in the Aging Services Industry in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Children, youth, and family services at Fowler include foster and adoption services, a residential program for women ages 18-24 at risk for homelessness due to neglect, abuse, and aging out of the foster care system, and a new Youth Support Center – a one-stop location to help Dallas youth, both boys and girls ages 12-24, escape or avoid sex trafficking and exploitation. Visit fowlercommunities.org or call 214.827.0813.