New Lou Ruvo Center art program gives creative outlet to those with memory loss

Art is in the eye of the beholder.

From 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health offers a free, interactive Art in the Afternoon program for anyone living with memory loss.

No art expertise is required. The new program held its first art discussion Sept. 22 in the main auditorium of the center, 888 W. Bonneville Ave. Modeled after the New York Museum of Modern Art’s “Meet Me at MoMA,” the program is designed to break down the barriers that isolate both those afflicted with a memory loss disease and their caregivers.

Volunteer docents lead discussions about the modern art pieces featured in the center’s collection. The theme for the first program was curves.

Volunteer Margie Walton led a lively discussion about the shapes and curves within a cast bronze by Charles Arnoldi. She asked what participants saw when they looked at the art piece. Many said they saw a baked potato in the middle portion of the sculpture. Was that the artist’s intent? Laughter and interaction resulted from the ensuing light-hearted debate.

Jerry and Verna Kinersly, both 85, felt right at home at the gathering. Verna completed a two-year clinical trial at the center, and Jerry is a former front desk volunteer. He led tours through the Frank Gehry-designed building before his wife of 61 years needed his constant attention.

“He thinks I’ll run away,” said Verna. “I keep saying it’s so hot outside — why would I run away?”

Holding his wife’s hand, Jerry teased, “It’s all those men that are chasing after you.”

The longtime Sun City Summerlin residents enjoyed their time together in the stress-free atmosphere of the program. Jerry had a gift card to the Rachel’s Kitchen restaurant located directly outside the auditorium, so he planned to “spring for lunch” and make the most of the outing.

In the 2009 documentary “I Remember Better When I Paint,” filmmakers Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner document the positive impact of art and other creative activities on people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a review by the New York University School of Medicine. In the film, Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, explains that the brain’s parietal lobe, which is stimulated by art and music, is not involved in the disease process until the late stage of Alzheimer’s.

Paul Nesbitt, 70, and his wife Paula, 55, recently moved to Las Vegas because of the Lou Ruvo Center and the Cleveland Clinic. Paul holds two doctorates in archaeology and history and served as California’s state historian for 25 years.

As a full-time caregiver to her husband, Paula spoke enthusiastically about the new Art in the Afternoon program, which is designed to lift the spirits and engage the minds of its participants.

“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to network with others,” she said. “I think it’s really important to be interactive, to make that connection.

“This disease can steal so many things from a person, but it can’t take your innate creativity from you. This (program) is an awesome way to express it.”

The next Art in the Afternoon program is scheduled for Oct. 20. Seating is limited, so preregistration is required. To register, email or call 702-483-6055.

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