Raising The Curtain
ON THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF DEMENTIA
Raising the Curtain is a ground-breaking multi-year research project that combines Community-based Participatory Research with Community Engaged Arts Practice to explore the question: “What is the lived experience of dementia?” through the ideas, creativity and perspectives of those living it.
INNOVATIVE HEALTHCARE MODEL
Five years in the making…
OUR FINAL WORKSHOP SERIES – MAY & JUNE 2022
On May 9th, 2022, after over 2-years of connecting virtually for creative workshops, participants, care partners, and the RTC team finally met again in-person! We gathered, re-connected, and then rolled up our sleeves to continue preparations for our final presentation – Encore! For three Mondays in May, we all met at Deer Crossing the Art Farm in Gibsons, to prepare for our live presentations and online sharing in June. In typical Raising the Curtain style, there was plenty of tea and cookies! This was the final workshop series as part of the Raising the Curtain project.
On June 2nd and 3rd 2022, we gathered in-person at Deer Crossing the Art Farm and at Douglas College and livestreamed – Encore – to an in-person audience at Douglas College and an online global audience. Encore celebrated and showcased 5 years of the Raising the Curtain Project, sharing about the lived experience of dementia from the creativity and perspective of those living it! Here is a link to our livestream recordings of the showcase and the panel presentations.
Earlier workshops series…
FIRST WORKSHOP SERIES – FALL 2017
In the fall of 2017, after almost a year of planning, preparation and recruitment, The Imagination Network team shifted into action! Designing and delivering this first set of workshops was a collaboration between all three partners. It came as no surprise that this would have its growing pains as we learned to speak each others’ languages. Literally. The terms and processes unique to each of our fields made collaborating more challenging than ever. Everyone’s good spirits and determination prevailed and soon our group of amazing participants joined us for creative sessions and inspired discussions – all of which were audio-recorded and transcribed.
DATA ANALYSIS – WINTER & EARLY SPRING 2018
From January to April 2018, Raising the Curtain shifted from creation to data analysis. Each session from the fall was audio recorded and transcribed by student research assistants. Every second Monday, the group met at Christenson Village with a growing group of participants. Together participants and researchers read through the transcripts, looked for themes and tried to make sense of how the participants experienced early stages of dementia. Then, the facilitators presented a theme and some quotations from the transcript and asked the participants to help define that theme. This process helped us to keep the research driven by the participants and their lived experience as much as possible. Of course, these gatherings would not have been Raising the Curtain without some art! So, we spent the last hour of each gathering on artistic projects, including painting, photography, and collage.
SECOND WORKSHOP SERIES – LATE SPRING 2018
In May and June 2018 we met weekly for another series of creative workshops. In these meet-ups we focused on one theme that was identified in the data analysis phase. The group chose from a few potential mediums and then we delved into the creative process of symbolizing the theme through our chosen artistic media. It was challenging to synthesize the data gathered into a piece of artwork or performance that we could share with their care partners and the wider community. In the end, all our participants were up for the challenge, and many beautiful works came out of this process. The work created in these workshops was showcased in late June. The showcase featured a shadow-puppet show, entitled “Managing the Unknown”, in which participants built puppets, wrote the script, narrated, operated the projector and animated the puppets along with the rest our team. Another highlight from this showcase was the dining room that was decked floor to ceiling with hand-painted trading cards by the participants and Christenson Village residents. Each card had a quote and illustration chosen by participants based on the theme “Inclusion and Belonging”.
THIRD WORKSHOP SERIES – FALL 2018
When we gathered in the Fall of 2018, we spent some time revisiting our purpose for doing this project: the participants, the team of researchers and artists. We realized that we were motivated to share the unique and misrepresented experience of living with dementia with our wider community. From this place, we started the exciting work of introducing theatre as a vehicle for sharing our ideas and message. The group worked through themes of “Autonomy and Control” and “Normalizing and Rationalizing” using theatre, voice and choral work. At the culmination of this series of workshops, we shared our process through activities, songs, and improvisational scenes at the Gibsons Heritage Theatre in front of an invited audience of care partners, friends, and family. It was a proud and rewarding day for all.
FOURTH WORKSHOP SERIES FALL 2019 & WINTER 2020
Our weekly Raising the Curtain gatherings with participants in the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020 focused on building skills and concepts for a theatrical production to be performed in July 2020. We worked with participants to envision Christenson Village – the long term care home we have been working out of – as a performance space, open to the public for a weekend of performances and installations. Together we wrote songs, practiced improv, created short vignettes, and began developing a shadow puppet performance based on the stories shared with us by participants.
In the early months of 2020 we opened up our process to a wider circle. Our HIVE workshops, facilitated by the Raising the Curtain Team, involved people living with dementia, care partners, residents from Christenson Village, and volunteers from the wider community. The HIVE workshops focused on developing props, sets and other elements for our July 2020 theatrical production. We began involving residents of Christenson Village, eager community members with relevant backgrounds in the arts and healthcare, as well as our participants’ partners and families. The vision of a site specific production was becoming clearer to all of us by the day.
FIFTH WORKSHOP SERIES & LIVE EVENTS (IN A TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING) SPRING 2020
In March 2020, Raising The Curtain had to pause the face-to-face creative workshops and rehearsals due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Our team took a short hiatus to adjust to life in the world of physical distancing, and to reimagine what a theatrical presentation could look like in this new context.
After considering all options (including postponement), we decided that The Show Must Go On! And so… after five weeks of ZOOM workshops between artists/facilitators, participants and their care partners, the re-imagining led to…
BACKSTAGE PASS! a virtual on-line extravaganza of research, puppetry, dialogue, music, discussion, sculpture and so much more.
SIXTH WORKSHOP SERIES – FALL 2020 & SPRING 2021
With the COVID 19 pandemic ongoing, meeting in-person for our workshops was still not a possibility. That said, equipped with the knowledge and experience we had gained from connecting online during the Spring of 2020, we continued the workshops online, or by phone, with a slightly smaller group of participants and care partners for the Fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021. Raising the Curtain participants, care partners, artist facilitators and research assistants met virtually in small groups for regular creative engagement sessions, with a few larger social gatherings on Zoom. Our focus for the Fall 2020 sessions was on preparing for our opening presentation for the January 2021 Dementia Lab online conference. We opened the Dementia Lab conference, hosted by the Health Design Lab at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, with a one-of-a-kind montage of performance, spoken word, dialogue, song, puppetry and more!
For the Spring 2021 workshop series, our focus shifted to sharing what we had learned through this project with other people interested in learning about our work, creative engaged arts, and the lived experience of dementia. From April to June 2021, we facilitated our first online Facilitators in Training cohort with a small group of people from across Canada from health care, the arts and community backgrounds. Our immersive 8-week workshop series was facilitated by members of the Raising the Curtain team, including people with the lived experience and care partners in a mentorship role. A big focus of the workshop series was on learning together through exploring, playing with, practicing, and sharing creative ideas.
SEVENTH WORKSHOP SERIES – FALL 2021 & SPRING 2022
Our workshop series resumed online in the Fall of 2021. Whilst we are still not able to meet in-person, Raising the Curtain participants, care partners, artist facilitators and research assistants have continued meeting virtually, or by phone, in small groups for creative engagement sessions. We are hopeful that as a group, Raising the Curtain will be able to resume gathering in-person – a reunion – before our final event in June 2022. Our group’s collective focus for this workshop series is on working towards the June event where we will gather, showcase, and celebrate 5 years of the Raising the Curtain project! Each creative engagement group is working on projects and products for this final event, Encore!