TAMPA, Fla. - Gazing at the beautiful colors in works of art can calm the mind but for those living with Alzheimer's or dementia, a visit to the museum can have true healing power.
The Tampa Museum of Art is hosting special tours focused on mental health. The sights become medicine for the mind and therapy for the imagination.
"They said it's just beautiful, it makes their imagination go wild," said Ashley Pires who works with Community Life of Watermark at Trinity assisted living facility.
Wednesday, Pires brought several residents to be part of the special, more personal experience at the Tampa Museum of Art. The Connections program which began in 2015 explores art through the lens of memory.
"The program is designed as an art-looking opportunity for people living with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, depression, PTSD and substance use disorder as an opportunity to engaged in conversations about artwork where the artwork serves as a mediator to talk about what is going on in their lives in that moment," said Brittny Bevel, Education Curator at the Tampa Museum of Art.
In the gallery, conversations, questions and sights alone have the power to trigger memories.
"I had a gentleman living with dementia participate in one of our early programs," Bevel recalled. "We were looking at a work of art that was derived from one of Monet's paintings and he's looking at it and he started to tell us the history of the entire work of art."
Alzheimer's and dementia patients who struggle with anxiety, loneliness or depression get a chance to relax their minds and be free.
"It brought back memories for them, they were smiling, they were talking on the way back home about it and I feel like it gave them a sense of purpose and belonging again," said Pires.
The Connections program is free, thanks to the support of local donors. The goal is to break down stigmas and reiterate the idea that art is for everyone.
"Art is a great equalizer," Bevel said. "It's a visual language we learn before we learn spoken language and it's something that everybody has experienced."
November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. If you are interested in learning more about Connections, you can contact them at Connections@TampaMuseum.org.