Training: July 11 - September 5, 2006; Cardinal Ritter Senior Services; Mel Watkin, Instructor
Exhibition SITE #1: PPRC Photography Project Gallery
October 10, 2006 - January 5, 2007
Exhibition SITE #2: Alzheimer's Association, St. Louis Chapter
November 16, 2006 - January 5, 2007
Special Exhibition: Alzheimer's in Focus: National Conference
November 14, 2006
Think Tank is a pioneering adult education program for people with mild memory loss offered by the Alzheimer's Association of St. Louis. The purpose of the group is to challenge the mind, to allow group members to get to know others with memory loss, and to empower people with dementia. Each year Think Tank pursues two or three subjects that interest its participants, such as music appreciation, philosophy, or hands-on art projects. The Think Tank group's goal for their Photography Project training was to use photography as a way of capturing and holding memories. After looking at the work of photographer Duane Michaels, who specializes in combining black-and-white portraits with hand-written, memoir-like texts, participants wrote brief statements to combine with their own black-and-white portraits. The writing, extremely difficult for many people with dementia, took the form of a letter of thanks to family and to Think Tank. Another assignment involved looking at the work of photographer Kenneth Josephson, best known for "re-photography," or taking new photographs of sites or events in historic photographs. Participants dug into their photo albums for favorite pictures of family, friends, or places they had visited. They then re-photographed themselves with these meaningful images, allowing viewers to see them holding tight to precious memories. Next they tackled digital collage. The collage assignment gives viewers some sense of the camaraderie and hilarious rapport Think Tank members had with each other. Using Photoshop, we collaged participants' portraits into reproductions from art history or photographs from magazines. For example, Think Tank's much beloved class cut-up Pete Sciuto was collaged into a very famous painting from 1766 called The Swing by Jean-Honor Fragonard. In the final product, Pete's head was collaged over the heads of three cherubs, two young dandies, and a silk clad maiden on a swing.
--Mel Watkin, Instructor and Director
PPRC Photography Project
Autobiographical text by participants:
"The Think Tank program has been a blessing to all of us. It has provided a place where people who have early Alzheimer's disease can bond together as they take classes from excellent leaders. In the process, we find that we have many things in common and we no longer feel alone. Early in the program I would see people across the table looking guarded and downcast. After several weeks, I saw smiles on many faces, which really touched me. In our group we don't feel the tyranny of the articulate. We realize that we still have a purpose in life and we can help others by reaching out and helping one another. We have seen a transition from being closed up to reaching out to each other and to those who do not have dementia. I have seen courage, humor and joy in our wonderful group, manifesting the image of our creator."
"I am Daniel and my diagnosis is for frontal temporal dementia. My grandfather said he would rather wear out than rust out. I am pursuing a strategy of pushing new frontiers and expanding the envelope of my mind, life, and skills today. By expanding our horizons through Think Tank and keeping our futures alive and active, we are filling each day and expanding our friendships and coping skills as well as our quality of life."
This program has been a real blessing to me, and I have had a great time with the guys and a nice lady. I have always enjoyed photography and have made up several albums. This picture reminds me that I do have some pensive times. I wonder sometimes that the Lord allowed me to lose some of my thought processes, but for my 78 years I am in pretty good shape!
My name is Bill. Alzheimer's Think Tank has been helpful to me with regards to music education and photography instruction, but also with regards to fellowship with colleagues experiencing the consequences of memory loss and how others besides myself are dealing with it. The previous class in Music Appreciation encouraged me to deepen my long term interest in music not only because of the great beauty of the melodies, words, and rhythms, but also because many musical compositions help me recall special times and events. The photography instruction has also (partly by its nature) helped me increase the opportunities to remember special occasions, friends, and family. The fellowship has encouraged me to continue to learn, increase my skills and enjoy others company, despite the onset of memory loss. The photograph I am holding is of my granddaughter. She helps me remember the beauty and joy of new life and our responsibility to give.
My involvement in the Photography Project was most rewarding. Our instructor, Mel Watkin, taught us how to use the camera and take pictures properly. Two or three students shared a camera to take pictures of people, places, and things. At the following class, Mel would point out our mistakes as well as compliment us on our performance. This was my 4th continuing education class thru Think Tank, a project of the Alzheimer's Association, St. Louis. Arts, philosophy, music were our previous classes and they were likewise entertaining and educational.
--Paul E. Scucchi
I feel very lucky to have the relatives and friends I have. When I came home from the service I had a very hard time caring. I decided to say, "I survived Vietnam and I would do whatever I wanted to do and screw the world." So, I did whatever and was very selfish. I hurt some of my friends and afterwards was so sorry. Now I am grateful, and even the bad things, made me the person I am today. One bad thing was the loss of my brother. I got very angry at God and went crazy. But, I realize I only hurt myself, family, and friends. Thank God I realized in time to change and came back to my roots. All my friends and my family helped me very much. Thank God for my wonderful family and friends! It is a wonderful life! (My favorite movie.)
Alzheimer's Association, St. Louis Chapter
Cardinal Ritter Senior Services
Forest Park Forever
Dennis and Judith Jones Visitor Center at Forest Park