November 3, 2019
There is a relatively new area of art history emerging that examines the link between engaging with artworks and memory care. The Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging Programs beautifully fuse these two unfolding areas of study, offering adults living with dementia a chance to engage in creative lifelong learning while exploring the rich potential of aging.
I largely credit my interest in the connection between art history and dementia to my art history advisor, Chris Penn-Goetch, who introduced me to this blossoming field of study and worked with me closely to explore it further. She lit my inspiration ablaze by suggesting I try to obtain an internship with an art museum that had implemented memory care centered programming. By having Chris believe in my abilities as a student, I was able to navigate the process of securing an internship with confidence in myself and what I had to offer.
When exploring possible internship locations, I stumbled across a conference put on by the Frye Art Museum’s Creative Aging Programs. Through funding from student senate, Rise Up (a financial program in place for first generation undergraduate students), and a scholarship from the Frye, I was given the opportunity to attend Perspectives on Memory, a one-day conference that hosted lectures by international specialists and local experts to explore the topic of memory from an array of multidisciplinary perspectives. By engaging in this event, I was able to explore the Frye Museum and their programs first hand, as well as meet the director of the Creative Aging department, Mary Jane Knecht, in person to discuss internship possibilities.
My process of reaching out to the Frye began in November of 2018. Here I am, a year later, looking at the drizzly Seattle skyline and diving into an internship with the Creative Aging Programs. As an intern I will be engaging with four of their existing programs (here:now, Meet me at the Movies, Alzheimer’s Café, and Bridges), as well as helping to pilot an inter-generational program, offering aid throughout the department as needed, observing other dementia engagement programs located in Seattle (Elderwise art classes and the Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoo Walk), and meeting one-on-one with specialists in the area to learn about their work.
I am currently a graduating senior in a B.S.S. program, majoring in psychology with a heavy minor in art history. These two disciplines combine in such a way as to both give me a scientific framework to support my understanding of how people operate and why, as well as teach me to actively look at the world and appreciate mindsets different than my own.
My long-term plan is to pursue graduate study in an applied field of psychology as well as obtain a license to practice in order to improve the quality of life for people across time, space, and cultures. More presently, I am working with my Cornell roommate, Kimberly Cuevas, to create a nonprofit organization which will provide public health services to underrepresented populations in Camden, New Jersey. While my courses are giving me the academic background necessary for my future pursuits, I am needing an opportunity which can blend the academic understanding I have into an applicable learning experience. With this fellowship I will be gaining the skills necessary to continue my education beyond an undergraduate degree and prepare for a lifetime of learning and engaged citizenship.
My first week has been filled with traveling to Seattle and nesting before everything with the Frye starts up on Monday. Through the help of a family friend that lives in the area, I was able to find a room available for rent at a reasonably low price in exchange for being a cat sitter whenever the home owner is away. When I agreed to the housing arrangement, I had no idea what an incredible location I had stumbled into, I was simply sold on the idea of cats and a cheap place to stay. I’m located in West Seattle, about a five-minute walk from Alki Beach. This area is absolutely gorgeous with mountain peaks in one direction and the space needle in the other, all tucked alongside the Puget Sound. It is nothing short of picturesque.
In addition to getting settled this week, I focused a lot of energy into learning the bus system across Seattle. I grew up in a town about one stoplight bigger than Mt. Vernon, Iowa, so needless to say, public transit is a learning curve. Relying on a bus route is very new to me, but I can proudly say I have successfully made it back home every night – despite having gotten lost several times.
I am so grateful to have such an abundant two months ahead of me and cannot thank all of the people who aided me in bringing this dream to fruition enough. I intend to soak up every drop of my time in this city and very much look forward to sharing what I learn with the readers of this blog.
Olivia is a psychology major and art history minor from Houghton, Michigan.