Date of Thesis

5-9-2017

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Roger I. Rothman

Second Advisor

Andrea Rita Halpern

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the ways in which exposure to visual art at the Samek Art Museum can improve the wellbeing of people with dementia. This thesis argues that the practices of contemporary museum education and the discipline of Disability Studies have largely been running parallel to each other since the rise of Disability Studies in the 1980s. Museum educators and their institutions have been conditioned to concern themselves with only the able-minded and able-bodied. However, Disability Study scholars force us to question this status quo through their writings about normalcy and its flaws. I argue that if museums were able to alter what they consider to be normal, then they would be more inviting places to people with all forms of disability. My thesis encourages the Samek Art Museum to alter what they have considered to be normal. For this project, I collaborated with the Museum to create three museum visiting sessions for residents both with and without dementia from local long term care facilities. During these sessions, residents engaged in conversations about various artworks from the collection, led by a gallery teacher. The goal of these visits was to provide the residents with a museum experience outside of their everyday activities and to improve their short term wellbeing. To determine whether or not the participants were positively affected by the art viewing experience, I administered questionnaires assessing wellbeing and attitudes towards art prior to the visit and then immediately following. The results of the small scale quantitative study indicated that participants did not have any significant increase or decrease in their scores after the art viewing experience; however, the qualitative comments did show an enjoyment of their experience and a desire to learn more about art. In the future, this research should be conducted again with a larger sample size and other museums, besides the Samek, should engage their local population with dementia to improve their wellbeing. People with cognitive impairments deserve to be included in society and not stigmatized.

Share

COinS