Flint, MI — This month, the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA) is launching a program designed for people with mild to moderate memory loss and their care partners.

The free program, called Art Spark!, promises art engagement opportunities through gallery tours and art-making workshops led by specially-trained FIA staff and volunteers.

“It’s really a part of our making the museum accessible for all,” said Jennifer Giddings-Essenmacher, FIA Docent and Access Coordinator and a trained Alzheimer’s Association Community Educator. “There’s something for everyone here, no matter what your level is or how you’re able to participate.”

Giddings-Essenmacher said Art Spark! participants and their guests can expect gallery tours that feature just a few art pieces, seating and interactive elements and discussion.

“They [the tours] offer the ability for someone with memory loss and a care partner to come in and not feel like they have to know anything about the art,” she explained, adding that the goal is mainly to allow participants to “step away” from whatever disease is causing their memory loss.

“We’re going to talk about what we see and how we experience it,” Giddings-Essenmacher said. “We’ll have what we call ‘touch and feel’ items that will connect to the pieces in the gallery that they’ll be viewing, and we also will have our staff … both between the museum side and the art school staff … who will also be participating to answer those questions about, ‘oh, how was this created?’ or why this is important.”

A participant engages with a “touch and feel” object during a training tour for the Flint Institute of Arts’ new Art Spark! program. The program is designed to provide art and social engagement for people with mild to moderate memory loss and their care partners. (Photo courtesy Flint Institute of Arts)

Giddings-Essenmacher noted that the program will also offer art-making workshops by early 2024, which she greatly looks forward to given what she learned from the community as a former program coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“A lot of what I heard in the support groups was that there’s no social engagement opportunities in Genesee County,” she explained. “For a social engagement program, they’d have to go to Detroit or Grand Rapids to find any programs.”

Art Spark! gallery tours will be offered on the third Thursday of each month, starting Oct. 19, 2023.

The tours are approximately an hour long with a 30-minute social beforehand and capped at 20 participants.

Pre-registration is required and can be done online through the Alzheimer’s Association and AARP’s Community Resource Finder or by calling the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 800-272-3900.

Registrations will be accepted up to the week before the scheduled tour.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

One reply on “Flint Institute of Arts launches program for people with memory loss”

  1. What a wonderful program! My late mother would have really enjoyed this on so many levels…I’ll be sure to pass the word. As an aside, I always enjoy reading Kate’s articles.

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