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Art program helps adults with dementia broaden their world

Yvette Mayor and Nancy Winburne, participants in the Opening Minds through Art program.
Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
Yvette Mayor and Nancy Winburne, participants in the Opening Minds through Art program.

A unique program in Richmond is helping adults with dementia get out of the house, make friends, and do art.

One recent Saturday morning at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center in Henrico, a full house of family members and volunteers sing “You are my sunshine” together to a round of applause.

The ‘Opening Minds through Art’ sessions always begin with a song. And the program’s culminating art exhibit is no different.

The two-month program connects adults with dementia to a partner who helps them with art projects.

“It has given me joy to meet new people, and I love the work,” says 84-year old Nancy Winburne, whose been working together with volunteer Yvette Major.

“We've learned that we can create beautiful things with simple things like sponges,” Yvette says. “And we've used a lot of glitter.”

The two laugh and are clearly at ease after a couple months in each other’s company. They both say they’ve learned a lot from one another.

“We have fun!” exclaims Nancy.

“It gets a little messy, sometimes. But we enjoy it,” smiles Yvette.

The program also provides support for family. While their loved ones are making art, their caregivers are next door – sharing coffee, food and support. Nancy has lived with her son Elias Winburne for almost a decade.

“My mom doesn't get out much, she likes her little space.” says Elias. “But then when we do get out, you know, she opens up and she loves coming (each) Saturday.”

So much so that they’ve already signed up for the next session.

Elias says dementia can shrink someone’s world, and that coming here each week has helped his mother’s world get a little bit bigger.

The next Opening Minds Through Art begins in mid-April and there’s still space available for participants. You can find out more about the free program here.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.