connect2culture®: Your Link to Cultural Engagement

Meredith Wong,
Manager of Connect2culture®

The year 2018 was one of partnerships, education, and exciting new expansion for connect2culture®. It was a time of discovery for families who chose from various programs offering creative and engaging opportunities for social connection, creative stimulation, and joy. Connect2culture explored caregiver-only pilot programs, and by the end of 2018, had 18 cultural partners including botanical gardens, art and history museums, and performing arts organizations. In becoming cultural partners, organizations served caregivers and people living with dementia through interactions from trained staff, creating a welcoming and safe environment and facilitating creative and innovative programs.

With Music in Mind® was the first partnership pilot program, initiated with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, an orchestra internationally recognized for high-level performances without a conductor. The program offered families an enjoyable music program in two of CaringKind’s partner organizations, Hebrew Home at Riverdale and the Brooklyn Museum, followed by a chance to socialize with the performers over light refreshments. Families and staff were treated to a music selection that inspired some to dance, move, and sing while lifting spirits and strengthening connections.

A well-received short film produced about With Music in Mind® is screened during trainings to illustrate how music engages families and offers respite. In the film, family caregivers and the individual with dementia movingly speak about music’s positive impact on themselves as well as their family member living with the disease. Music allows for a shared cultural experience, stimulates emotional connections to memories, and encourages movement and social engagement. Through a generous multi-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, connect2culture continues to explore other opportunities for families to connect through music and the performing arts in partnerships with the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation and with The New York Pops in 2019.

A second partnership, with the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx, enabled connect2culture to pilot the Along the Garden Path® program. Participants took a guided walk through the gardens, smelled the fragrances and felt the textures of herbs and seasonal plants in the sensory garden. And, they became caregivers themselves by planting bulbs in flower pots to care for at home. This program culminated in the production of a program guide of the same name, now a resource of seasonal ideas for horticultural venues to do with families in their communities.

A new initiative for connect2culture is to encourage cultural institutions to create caregiver-only programs. Recognizing that caregivers need time to practice self-care, connect2culture piloted a program with The Rubin Museum of Art in downtown Manhattan. The Rubin Museum’s collection of Himalayan art and contemporary installations facilitate thought-provoking conversations in their galleries. Caregivers use this time to meet other caregivers, explore their own ideas of life cycles through art, and enjoy time to themselves.

Connect2culture thanks families for their support and participation in its cultural partners’ programs, and continues to look for opportunities to expand its roster in 2019.

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