Using Art Conversations as Social Engagement Through Defined Art Categories to Stimulate Responses from People Living with Dementia

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Mary-Elizabeth Guenther
Stephanie Taylor
Carol Mauck


Dementia is a very isolating disease, and social engagement is crucial to increase quality of life and cognitive stimulation. This study aims to investigate how art museum interventions can be used as a method of social engagement. Additionally, this study seeks to identify which categories of art are most engaging for people with dementia. Art museum sessions were conducted in 2014 and 2015 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Krannert Art Museum, and in 2016, they took place in a dementia-specific facility. The mood of the participants was assessed before and after each session using the “Smiley Face Assessment” (Yang, 2004). Participants engaged in discussions surrounding various categories of art. Both verbal and non-verbal responses were recorded. All conversations were transcribed and coded for later analysis. The different types of art were organized and coded by subject matter, style, and dimensionality. Figurative, contemporary, and two-dimensional pieces were shown to stimulate the most social engagement with 16.76% of comments, followed by figurative, realistic and two-dimensional pieces with 16.26% of comments. Interpretive comments and creating questions were the most prevalent type of comments within figurative, contemporary, and two-dimensional pieces, with percentages 12.83% and 1.89% respectively. The results indicate which types of art created the most social engagement and are consistent with existing literature regarding the benefits of art museum interventions for people with dementia/

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