In Partnership With The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Over the last year Ruth Clarke, Inclusion Associate at the Fitzwilliam Museum, has been championing a programme for older people in Cambridgeshire called ‘Dancing at the Museum’. Funded by the Big Lottery, and supported by Dance Therapist, Filipa Pereira-Stubbs, the programme has encouraged people living in sheltered housing schemes to visit the museum and to talk about artwork in association with movement to music. So successful has the programme been, in fact, that Ruth has developed an outreach scheme, and we are delighted that Over Day Centre is able to participate.
The scheme will run for two years with 18 visits being planned in total. Since May of this year, we have been visited three times and treated to a wide variety of paintings from the museum collection, as well as a selection of music to match/support the artwork.
On Ruth’s first visit, there was a mixed reaction from our clients who viewed the scheme somewhat suspiciously: one asserting that going to a gallery was not for them; another adamantly stating that they would never move/dance to music in public because they would feel silly. But what a different reaction there was by the end of the session! The gentleman, who refused to dance, quite happily moved to the music as directed by Ruth and admitted that he had really enjoyed himself. The lady, who would never consider visiting the Fitzwilliam, admitted that she had enjoyed looking at all three paintings. With a smile on her face, she added that she had enjoyed telling a story through the images and that she was surprised at how much detail she had found in the artwork.
Members of the Fitzwilliam Museum team work hard to be inclusive. For example, although the paintings are displayed using an overhead projector, clients with limited sight are given high quality A3 reproductions to be viewed with large magnifying glasses. Those who are hard of hearing are supplied with a special mini amplifier and headphones.
By the third visit, and granted that the Fitzwilliam have been playing to a captive audience, out of twenty-four clients only four showed little interest: these being clients in the later stages of dementia. The painting chosen for this session was ‘A Village Festival’ by Pieter Breughel the Younger, which was given an 8 out of 10 rating by the majority (with two clients giving the artwork 10 out of 10, and one gentleman giving it an 11!). Working in small groups, the clients were keen to share what they had discovered. As one lady said, “If I was at the museum, I would probably give this painting only a couple of minutes of my time. This way I can really study the detail, and suddenly there are stories in the picture”.
One client with dementia, who struggles to join in with activities, was especially animated when encouraged to listen and sway to pieces of classical music. With the help of a carer she was able to explore the reproductions and commented on how “pretty” they were; stating “How lucky we are today”!
For the majority of our clients a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum is an impossibility for a number of reasons: living in isolation, no access to transportation, mobility issues, varying degrees of dementia. This outreach scheme has given our clients the opportunity to explore a new avenue (for some, an avenue that they never would have considered as being of interest to them).