Reviewed by us (an art therapy exhibition)

Let’s hope age is no barrier to creativity…! It is amazing how much joy and spirit express these paintings.

This comment was taken from the visitors’ book of the exhibition Ri-visti da noi (Re-interpreted by us), an event we sponsored along with other companies from the area.

Reviewed by us is a collection of 27 reinterpretations of famous paintings by a number of guests of the San Vincenzo rest home in Grignasco. The women who painted these works take part in an Art Therapy group, and they all suffer from very severe chronic degenerative conditions.

The art therapy carried out in rest homes helps guests to socialise, and offers them an active way to occupy their time, as well as to work on negative emotions such as a sense of alienation caused by living in a care home, and depression caused by separation from their own familiar environment. Art therapy proves to be particularly positive among the elderly, because it sharpens their cognitive and mental abilities and brings inner calm.

The Art Therapy group was created in 2015; the idea came to Enrica Pastore, after her mother went into a rest home. This is how Enrica describes what they do:

When my mother went into a rest home, she was already suffering from a fairly advanced stage of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, this condition no longer allows her to have a nice conversation with me, or to take a stroll, so it was difficult to find a way to spend some time with her. I used to go and visit her, and she’d want to do things, but what? Goodness knows she’d never been the sedentary type, and I had to come up with something to keep her busy. So I took her some colouring books and pens and we started colouring together. Some other people gradually joined us, and this was the start of our Art Therapy group.

I’m learning all about a whole new universe, or rather a lot of micro-universes that coexist: unique, surprising, made of fundamental habits and little things. I always call the ladies in the group girls, because as long as the spirit and the joy remains, it’s a way to stay young and strong!

I think joy is a way of demonstrating our desire to live.

Two simple things that bring joy are colours and spending time with others, so we started out with a folder full of sheets of paper and a box of coloured pens. On the folder we wrote: Draw, enjoy, smile, and that’s exactly what happened.

I chose colour, because it stimulates the spirit and spreads good humour. We colour in ready-prepared drawings, because I don’t want to create the kind of performance anxiety a blank sheet could cause.

Together, we decide on a theme, a subject, then I prepare the drawings and we colour them as we please, as we see things. It’s still creative, because it requires the same measure of imagination and inspiration, and it has to be a moment able to create positive emotions, relaxation and enjoyment.

When we sit down, each person brings her own psychological and physical condition to the table, and this is the beauty of sharing, of helping each other, of laughing and enjoying time together… These too are moments to be appreciated, feelings to be revalued, emotions more importance needs to be given to. This has become our moment in the day when everyone gives it their best shot.

I’m not an occupational therapist, and this is not an area I have studied in any way.

I’d like to help gather my impressions, ideas, results and mistakes and anything that might be constructively shared with doctors and therapists. My aim is to help occupy these moments with an activity that can prove positive and creative. Time in a rest home seems to pass more slowly, and when residents no longer have things to do or interests, or when disability begins to affect their normal habits, boredom, monotony and frustration gradually eat away at them…

With a simple manual activity, I’d like to make a small contribution to maintaining the normal skills and competences of the guests.

I chose colouring, because it’s the activity that most closely resembles my work, and also because its relaxing and reminiscent of play; it creates a sense of calm and relaxation. Bringing these sensations into my group of girls creates a climate of harmony and helps them stay focused on a specific activity, without creating agitation or fear.

I see commitment, concentration, mutual help and a greater desire to socialise. This commitment is prompted by the stimulus to do a good job. They all want their works to turn out well and for others to appreciate them, and when they show each other their finished works, it’s almost like an exam!

When I suggested colouring in some famous paintings to their own tastes, I thought they wouldn’t like the idea, that they’d find it too difficult…but they were positive about this need to do something new, more difficult and complicated, a sort of challenge to their problems. And their question “When do we start?” gave rise to the project Reviewed by us.

Enrica collects works and images linked to this experience in a dedicated blog. If you’d like to follow the activity, or for more information, this is the link to the blog Verba Perdere – ovvero le ragazze in technicolor.

Here is the whole gallery: