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Since 2014, the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia have been delivering Artful Afternoon, an art program facilitated by an artist, staff from both partner organizations, and volunteers. The program offers a series of monthly workshops for individuals with dementia and a family member or friend. Over multiple visits and shared experiences, friendships develop and new skills are learned as participants engage in hands-on studio activities inspired by interactive gallery tours viewing original artworks.

The Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia continue to develop and grow the Artful Afternoon program with new pilot project sites in Nova Scotia and the development of a program manual. With a growing senior population, programs such as Artful Afternoon allow for enjoyable and meaningful opportunities in the community. Noting that Artful Afternoon “is one of the few things (my partner who has dementia) and I could still do together, as his disease progresses, these opportunities are very few. I also benefited greatly from the interaction with other caregivers, as we were becoming more and more isolated…it is such a worthwhile program, and is a “bright light” in my life.”
Artful Afternoon is made possible through generous anonymous donations.


Artist and art educator, Bess Forrestall, carefully decides on the studio activity to ensure that participants of varying abilities and interests are successful. The artworks on display magnify the uniqueness and imagination of each participant with their use of colour, line and composition. As she describes the art process and specific use of different materials, Bess demonstrates her expertise integrating the Gallery tour component of the program into the design of the lesson plan. She states:
Inspired by art work in the Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey exhibition (on view June 25, 2016 thru January 15, 2017), the work on display here was made by creating two separate drawings and combining them into a final work. The first drawing was done in marker on a wooden board, and the second was done in black ink on thin rice paper. Once both drawings were dried, the participants layered their ink drawing on top of their marker drawing and attached them using a gloss medium. The gloss medium acted like a liquid glue, and it changed the quality of the rice paper to make it transparent. When we brought the two drawings together, the representative qualities of each separate drawing were distorted. This echoes the play between representation and abstraction as seen in the work by photographer Steve Farmer. The two drawings were made using inherently different materials. The marker allowed each artist a great amount of control over their image and lent a bright vibrant colour palette to their work. In contrast, the ink gives a very gestural black mark that lacks both the control and the vibrancy of the marker. When combined, these two types of marks create a new type of image that plays on the strengths of each media. Participants also looked to the work of Matthew Collins for inspiration in both the vibrancy of his palette and the gestural quality of his paintings.

About Alzheimer’s and the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. Symptoms include a loss of memory, difficulty with day-to-day tasks and changes in mood and behaviour. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia – an umbrella term for a variety of brain disorders. Currently approximately 17, 000 Nova Scotians are living with a type of dementia, and this number is expected to continue to grow. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, there are steps that can be taken to slow progression and increase quality of life. Artful Afternoon is a chance for participants to engage socially with others, keep mentally active, and reduce stress – all of which benefits both the persons with a diagnosis and their care partners to live well with the disease.

The Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia is the leading not-for-profit health organization working to improve the quality of life for Nova Scotians affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and advance the search for the cause and cure. Call the Alzheimer InfoLine at 1-800-611-6345 for Information, Education, Support and Referral, or visit our website at



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