Art & Dementia

5 July 2017


Art & Dementia was the first of a new series of Curator's Day events run by the Arts Council Collection in partnership with Art Fund.

Listen to the sessions below and find out more about creating Dementia Friendly spaces and resources in your gallery or museum.

According to Alzheimer’s Society there are around 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and this figure is due to exceed a million by 2025. Museum and gallery collections have a vast array of stories and objects that can engage people with dementia and their carers we just need to make them accessible! The research project 'Dementia and Imagination' suggests that the benefits for people engaging with collections include ‘feeling more socially included, reports of enhanced cognitive capacities for people with dementia, and an improved quality of life.’



Session 1: Lucy Warren

Dementia Champion Lucy Warren, from Westminster Arts Resonate kicked things off with Dementia Friendly Bingo and led a session on creating dementia friendly spaces.

There are hundreds of types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a common form , scientists are not absolutely sure what causes the disease but deposits known as ‘plaques and tangles’ are prime suspects in cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer brain. These tissue losses can result in the ‘confusion’ often associated with the disease; a black doormat can appear to be an impassable hole to those with dementia, reflective flooring can appear like water, so care and thought must be given to the colour and textures of surfaces in museums and galleries when creating dementia friendly spaces.

Westminster Arts Resonate are a Community-based charity who run frequent Dementia Friends initiatives, find out more about them here.



Session 2: Andrew Newman, Professor of Cultural Gerontology at Newcastle University

Andrew spoke about the partnership between his University and the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

‘Are we thinking about enrichment or therapy?’

Andrew urged us to consider the aims of dementia focused arts programmes. Are they to do with ‘arts and health’ or might a non-medical approach be better?

Listen to Andrew’s session here.




Session 3: Claire Ford ‘The Joy of Small Presents’

‘It’s like being a detective’ – Claire suggests that arts practitioners draw on a wide pool of resources and techniques in order to tailor programmes to the specific needs and creativity of participants.

Find out more about We Engage

Listen to Claire's session.

‘Why should we invest in access to public collections?’


Session 4: Helen Chatterjee MBE, Professor of Biology at UCL

Helen delivered her paper 'Health and Wellbeing: Researching the impact of museum encounters with older adults'.

Helen urged us to think about how and why we should make the accessibility of our collections a priority. Collections can be taken to clinical settings e.g care homes and hospitals to create object handling sessions. These sessions promote multi-sensory engagement. 

Listen to Helen’s presentation here

Find out more about Helen’s research here


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.