ARTZ Reaches a National Community

With this month’s launch of “Artful Insights,” the newest of Dementia Society’s online offerings in its Dementia Unplugged™ series, Justine Stehle, program facilitator for ARTZ Philadelphia, shares her insights and experiences about ARTZ Philadelphia’s shift from in-person programs to virtual programs. She also talks about ARTZ Philadelphia partnering with the Dementia Society and reaching a national community.

Justine Stehle Headshot

Q. As a program facilitator for ARTZ Philadelphia you have led both in-person and virtual programs. What do you feel are the benefits of virtual programs?

A. Finding ways to bring our programs to homebound people living with dementia and their care partners has always been a goal of ARTZ Philly. The pandemic accelerated our efforts toward this goal as we created a program called ARTZ-Connect and moved our programs online. I am very grateful that we are connecting with people who in the past might not have been able to attend our museum programs but can now enjoy this form of creative and social engagement.

There have been some surprising benefits to making our programs virtual. ARTZ-Connect programs continue to be small, intimate, playful, and joyous experiences with art, but people now no longer have to leave the safety and comfort of their home to join our programs. As a result, variables such as transportation, inclement weather, difficult transitions, and time restraints are no longer barriers to participation.

A delightful benefit of viewing works of art online is that we are able to zoom in to magnify details, whereas at the museum, we are often reminded to keep our distance and to refrain from coming too close to the surface of a painting. In addition, we are able to look at small works of art that would be too small to see in person as a group, but lend themselves to great discussions.

While I miss facilitating programs in person, I’ve been happily surprised by the extent to which lively conversations and reminiscences are shared online. By offering ARTZ-Connect and several other programs virtually, we have attracted new participants, expanding the overall reach of ARTZ Philly. Given all of the inspiring benefits online programs have revealed, I hope that ARTZ-Connect programs continue to be funded even after the pandemic is behind us.

Q. ARTZ Philadelphia typically partners with local museums and arts centers. Partnering with the Dementia Society of America we are now able to reach and connect with a national community. What are your thoughts about taking ARTZ national?

A. Taking ARTZ Philadelphia to a national platform is another exciting opportunity to expand our museum partnerships and audience. Not only will we be viewing unique collections of art from across the country together, but also widening the potential for connections between care partners and people living with dementia. Participants will be invited to travel to places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit making it possible for anyone, anywhere in the country, to join. Making art and culture accessible to people living with dementia is at the heart of ARTZ Philly’s mission.

Q. What are you most excited about as Artful Insights launches this month?

A. The thought of traveling to art museums and centers across the country to create new partnerships and to learn about other art collections is exciting. I look forward to ARTZ reaching nationwide to include new participants as we bring art and culture to people living with dementia and their care partners.

We hope that you will join us this month as we officially launch Dementia Unplugged: Artful Insights with the Dementia Society of America.

ARTZ Philadelphia’s Community Engagement Coordinator Rebecca Granados also chatted with Kevin Jameson, Founder and CEO of the Dementia Society of America, about this exciting evolution of our work together. Read more from their conversation!