Meant ‘for everyone’ the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert collection features a dazzling array of enamel miniatures, elaborate micro-mosaic furniture, bejewelled snuffboxes, gold and silver decorated cups and much more, all collected by Sir Arthur (1913 – 2001) and his first wife Rosalinde (1913 – 95) to decorate their Californian retirement home. After Rosalinde’s death with dementia in 1995, Arthur requested that the precious collection of ‘beautiful things’ they chose to bring home from their travels be accessible to people living with dementia locally, and over the following six weeks this fascinating collection is being used as inspiration for artist Zoe Gilmour and Projects Coordinator, Lucy Warren, from Westminster Arts’ Resonate programme with residents living with dementia at St Vincent’s House Care Home in Hammersmith.
Zoe Gilmour’s ideas and reflections on visiting the Gilbert Collection
Artist and musician Zoe Gilmour (www.zoegilmour.com) works with people at all stages of life in many different participatory settings and has developed her specialist work with older people and specifically those living with a dementia with organisations such as Entelechy, Age Exchange and Trinity Laban. For this project Zoe is bringing her multi-arts experience and expertise to working one-to-one with residents of St Vincent’s who are bedbound or otherwise unable to join in group activities.
The Gilbert Collection offers a treasure trove of possibilities of ways to work with the residents of St Vincent’s, from the tactile and visually exciting jewel encrusted snuff-boxes, to the elaborate designs, decorations and imagery of the cups and plates in the collection. Zoe is spending time with each resident using handling objects, sensory materials, photographs, stories and song, to get to know their individual stories and to work with them to create a personalised artwork inspired by the collection.
‘I’m more of a cats person’ declared one resident, simply and quietly whilst looking at a photograph of a scene from the collection with Zoe and Lucy. Known to the staff as an avid cards player, perhaps together Zoe and this lady will make a Gilbert-inspired playing-cards box, featuring tales from her two black cats.
Other artworks might feature song, as simple musical boxes, or as lyrics embellishing a favourite tea cup. ‘The songs she knows are far too rude!’ chuckled one gentleman, hand in hand with his wife who he visits daily. ‘You’d be surprised what I know’ proffered Zoe, before they both broke into song, joined by Kirsty the Activities Coordinator around the lady’s bedside.
The project will also work with residents who take part in group activities in two sessions led by Lucy and Kathryn from Resonate. These sessions will explore the materials, history and stories within the collection and will bring the residents together to create a shared personalised artwork using a variety of techniques and materials. These participants will also be supported to visit the V&A as a celebration of the project for a specially curated handling session with items from the collection and the opportunity to hear from the assistant curator.
Resonate is a Westminster Arts programme which works with people living with a dementia at all stages of care across the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham. This includes projects in the community, in day centres, in residential homes and volunteer artists working one-to-one with people in their own homes, supporting and developing artists at all stages of their career to continue pioneering and innovative work across the arts with people living with a dementia. www.westminsterarts.org.uk
By guest blogger, Lucy Warren.