It has been the summer of the arts. I caught the Broadway play Motown the Musical. It was simply amazing. It felt like more of a concert than theater. I attend the lecture of Kehinde Wiley, and viewed his exhibit A New Republic. I went to the exhibit of Posing Beauty in African American Culture curated by Deborah Willis, Tariqa Waters’ exhibit The Untold Story of the Marginalized Matriarch Emancipating the Past, Bobby Neal Adams exhibit The Age Map, Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power (not for children unless you’re ready for a full on talk about slavery and race). I strolled through the exhibit Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair (the couture designs were jaw dropping and a look into the past).
On a few of these outings I caught a group of elderly people enjoying themselves. I didn’t think twice about it, and thought they belonged to Silver Sneakers. However, yesterday when I was taking my nephews to the museum, one of my charges pointed and asked “Why are they laughing?”
I whispered “Stop pointing.”
Thinking that when you get that age you don’t have to follow the rules, my charges wondered up to the group. A docent stopped them and whispered, “This group is closed!”
An elderly gentleman looked at my nephew and said, “Shit, let the kids join.”
A sweet lady pushed them into the folds and asked “What do you see?” We all listened as she smartly waxed on about colors and strokes. She informed the group she was an art teacher. We moved on to a few more exhibits. My nephew, now holding the art teacher’s hands, looked up at her and asked “What type of art did you teach?”
The lady looked at him quizzically and said “Whose teaching?”
My nephew laughed and hugged her, and we moved on with the tour. My nephews later declared the museum fun, but found some of the old people strange. I sat them down and shared with them highlights of the article that the docent had shared with me, explaining that the group had various stages of Alzheimer’s. The goal of these outings was that “what’s in a work of art will awaken their story. This approach can allow them to tap into long time memories without asking them to remember what happened 10 minutes ago” They listened and asked a few questions then my nephew said, so this is like the memory game we play at school. You know you turn and move all the cards then have to remember where they are. I smiled and said “Yeah, something like that.” I wonder if the arts could be a way of bridging the generational gap.