Photographs by Ansel Adams, a re-created country estate circa 1800, Korean art featuring celadon vases, lacquer and metalwork from the 11th century–these are a few of the recent exhibitions our Allen House residents have toured on their monthly visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
For nearly a decade, Allen House has participated in the MFA’s Access to Art Program. The Access to Art program provides tours that are visitor-centered and interactive, designed for groups with disabilities, which may include physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, people with dementia or those undergoing medical treatment, among others. One of the benefits of participating in this special program is that tours are scheduled at regular intervals, with the same tour guides. This allows our residents to build relationships with the guides, and allows the guides to develop tours for the specific interests and needs of our residents. In addition to viewing and discussing the artwork, the Access guides always bring a tactile element to engage the residents on each tour. Items such as a bamboo calligraphy brush, a canvas with dried strokes of paint in various textures, or a satin ribbon similar to the one worn by Degas’ Little Dancer are passed around for each individual to experience as they view the corresponding artwork.
While Alzheimer’s and other dementias may affect short-term memory, on these tours it is clear that they do not impact the ability to respond to or enjoy experiencing works of fine art. Our monthly tours often evoke the emotions and long-term memories of our residents. For example, one resident who had studied art earlier in her life was thrilled to see Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? and told the group about how she had written a dissertation on the piece. While other residents may not have such an extensive knowledge of art history, their faces light up with smiles as we view paintings such as Sargent’s Daughters of Edward Darley Boit and reminisce about parenthood and getting young children to sit still for a photo, let alone a painted portrait!
We are so thankful for the MFA’s commitment to making their collection accessible to all. Our Assisted Living residents also enjoy bi-monthly tours through the Access to Art Program