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Kate assists art program supporting people with dementia

30 September, 2021

UWA student Kate Barclay has contributed 100 hours towards arts programs that make a difference to community members living with dementia through a McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship.

The Bachelor of Arts, French Studies and Management student completed the internship at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), who have recently established a five-year Creative Encounters: Arts & Dementia at AGWA program to deepen engagement in their arts and dementia program.

Kate undertook widespread research into the relationship between participatory visual arts and dementia, gathered information on other arts and dementia programs operating within Australia and overseas, and explored funding opportunities to help inform the expansion of the program at AGWA.

“I learnt a great deal about dementia and other neurological conditions and the healing capabilities of participatory arts,” said Kate.

“The most rewarding aspect of my internship involved the discovery of the depth and breadth of research and preparation that goes into formulating specialised programs at institutions like the Art Gallery of WA,” she said.

Kate gained a strong understanding of the complex issues behind dementia in the WA community, including how young people can play a strong part in the solutions.

“The aging population has led to a rise in elder abuse and neurological conditions, and therefore finding new ways in which to engage and empower elderly people is crucial to improving social cohesion and preserving their societal contributions,” said Kate.

“It was fascinating to learn about the potential of intergenerational programs and how they could be incorporated in many organisations to reduce social isolation in elderly people and improve the skills, empathy and knowledge of young people,” she noted.

The AGWA team were thankful for Kate’s contributions to the project.

“Kate fitted seamlessly into the Gallery. Her contribution through the undertaking of a rapid review of art and dementia programs in the visual arts was invaluable. It is already informing next steps in the evolution and expansion of this important program,” said Josie Tanham, Partnership Manager at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

The internship has shown Kate the power of the arts as a tool for social engagement to enhance wellbeing and provide healing.

“It highlighted the importance of ensuring all stories and experiences are represented within cultural institutions, as the visual arts exist as an important means of sharing experience and learning from each other,” said Kate.

“Knowing that my research would continue to inform a program that would likely result in tangible benefits for members of the WA community was incredibly satisfying,” said Kate.

Kate hopes to continue volunteering with organisations that support older people in the community and recommends the McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship program to all UWA students.

“[The internship] provides vital experience in a workplace environment and it opens your eyes to how your personal skills can be used to help others,” she said.