Raising the Curtain is a ground-breaking multi-year project that combines Community-based Participatory Research with Community Engaged Arts Practice to explore the question: “What is the lived experience of dementia?” through the ideas, creativity and perspectives of those living it.
Scroll through our slide-show (below) to learn more about this project.
Raising The Curtain so far...
First Workshop Series – Fall 2017
In the fall of 2017, our team from Deer Crossing The Art Farm met with the research team from Douglas College and the recreation staff at Good Samaritan Christensen Village to shift this project from planning stages into action! In true Art Farm fashion, designing and delivering these workshops would be a collaboration between all three partners. It came as no surprise that this would have its growing pains as we learned to speak each others languages. Literally–the unique set of terms and processes to each of our fields made collaborating more challenging than ever. Everyone’s good sprits and determination prevailed and soon our group of amazing participants joined us for creative sessions and inspired discussions – all of which was transcribed each week for future use.
Research Analysis – Winter & Early Spring 2018
From January to April 2018, Raising the Curtain shifted from creation to the research analysis. Each session from the fall was audio recorded and transcribed by student research assistants. Then, participants and research students read through the transcripts, looking for themes and trying to make sense of how the participants experience early stages of dementia. Every second Monday, the group would meet at Christenson Village with a (growing) group of participants. During these meetings, the facilitators would present a theme and some quotations from the transcript and ask the participants to add to the definition. This helped us to keep the research as close to the lived experience of dementia as possible! Of course, these monday gatherings would not be Raising the Curtain without some art! So, we spent the last hour of each Monday on artistic projects, including paintings, photographs, and collage.
Second Workshop Series – Late Spring 2018
In May and June 2018 we met weekly for another series of creative workshops. In these meet ups we focused on one theme that was identified in the research analysis phase. The group would choose from a few potential mediums and then we would delve into the creative process of symbolizing the theme through our chosen artistic medium. Easier said that done! It was challenging to synthesize the information gathered into a piece of artwork (or performance) that we could share with their caregivers and the wider community. In the end all our participants were up for the challenge, and many beautiful works came out of this process. The work created in these workshops was showcased in late June. The showcase featured a shadow-puppet show in which participants built puppets, wrote the script, narrated, operated the projector and animated the puppets along with our team from Deer Crossing the Art Farm, Douglas College and Christenson Village. The show was titled Managing the Unknown. Another highlight from this showcase was the dining room: decked floor to ceiling with hand-painted trading cards by the participants and residents. Each card had a quote and illustration chosen by participants based on the theme: Inclusion and Belonging.
Third Workshop Series – Fall 2018
When we gathered in the Fall of 2018, we spent some time revisiting our purpose for doing this project: the participants, the team of researchers and artists. We realized that we had found family in each other and we were all moved to share the unique and misrepresented experience of living with dementia with our wider community. From this place, we started the exciting work of introducing theatre as a vehicle for sharing our ideas and message. The group worked through themes of Autonomy and Control and Normalizing and Rationalizing using theatre, voice and choral work. At the culmination of this series of workshops, we shared our process through activities, songs, and improvisational scenes at the Gibsons Heritage Theatre in front of an invited audience of caregivers, friends, and family. It was a proud and rewarding day for all.
Fourth Workshop Series Fall 2019 & Winter 2020
Our weekly Raising the Curtain gatherings with participants during the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020 focused on building skills and repertoire concepts for a theatrical production set to be performed in July of 2020. We worked with participants to envision the long term care home we have been working out of, Christenson Village, as a performance space, open to the public for a weekend of performances and installations. We wrote songs together, practiced improv, created vignettes, and began developing a shadow puppet performance based on the stories shared with us by participants.
In the early months of 2020 we opened up our process to a wider circle. Our HIVE workshops, facilitated by the Raising the Curtain team, involved people living with dementia, care partners, residents from Christenson Village, and volunteers from the wider community. The HIVE workshops focussed on developing props, sets and other elements for the theatrical production. We began involving residents of Christenson Village, eager community members with backgrounds in the arts, and healthcare, as well as our participants’ partners and families. Over the course of a few weeks, the vision of a co-created and co-produced collaborative site specific production became more clear to us and our participants.
Fifth Workshop Series & Live Events (in a time of social distancing) Spring 2020
In March 2020, Raising The Curtain had to pause the face-to-face creative workshops and rehearsals due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Our team took a short hiatus to adjust to life in the world of physical distancing, and to reimagine what a theatrical presentation could look like in this new context.
After considering all options (including postponement), we decided that The Show Must Go On! And so… after five weeks of ZOOM workshops between artists/facilitators, participants and their care partners, the re-imagining led to… BACKSTAGE PASS! a virtual on-line extravaganza of research, puppetry, dialogue, music, discussion, sculpture and so much more. View the online presentations at: https://imaginationnetwork.org/events/
Presentation at DementiaLab 2021
The Imagination Network – Raising the Curtain hosted the opening for Dementia Lab 2021! The Dementia Lab conference focuses on how design can “uncover, support & enhance the abilities of people with dementia”. Raising the Curtain opened the conference with a one-of-a-kind montage of performance, spoken word, dialogue, song, puppetry and more. Our team will also presented two workshops. The Dementia Lab conference was hosted virtually this year by the Health Design Lab at Emily Carr University of Art and Design with talks, workshops, performances online from January 18 – 28th, 2021.