The training sessions are part of a plan to expand the project’s capacity and a DIY exhibition option that would allow other organizations, locations and individuals to create their own exhibitions using templates designed by graphic design students at SUNY Oswego, said the project’s organizers, Tyler Art Gallery Director Michael Flanagan and art faculty members Rebecca Mushtare and Seeley Cardone.
“Recollection” started in 2014 as an interactive exhibition focused on memory loss and designed by and for SUNY Oswego students in collaboration with residents at St. Luke Health Services in Oswego. The exhibition ultimately traveled to eight sites throughout Central New York, including to five adult care facilities in Oswego, Onondaga and Cayuga counties.
The original “Recollection: A Memory Loss Awareness Project” exhibition also included many additional educational components including training sessions on how to engage individuals with memory loss through the arts. The first iteration of the project was supported by SUNY Oswego’s Artswego and Auxiliary Services, Entergy Corporation and the Leon J. Goldberg Foundation.
The organizations the project partnered with were so excited by how the students’ interactive artworks engaged the spaces and communities it was exhibited in that organizers pursued a second iteration of the project, ‘Recollection: Storytelling Through Mementos’ that launched in summer 2018 and concluded in the spring of 2020.
This second version of the project was re-envisioned with adult care facilities and support spaces at the core of the design, and organizers developed two workshops that centered physical objects as the starting point to tell stories.
One workshop focuses on personal stories by requesting participants to bring a personal memento as the seed for a conversation about personal experience and related shared experiences with a small group. The other workshop focuses on collaboration by using a set of objects that engage the senses (through touch, sight, sound, and smell) provided by the facilitators as a catalyst for creative and spontaneous storymaking and laughter.
Both techniques benefit a wide range of participants with various ages and abilities, organizers said. Even less verbal participants can benefit from the social and sensory nature of the activities. These workshops were conducted at five partner adult care facilities in Oswego and Onondaga counties. The stories told at the workshops were documented in text and image and then were made into an interactive exhibition that traveled to each of the participating communities.
The exhibition was professionally printed on washable materials and installed using a re-usable (and sturdy) trade-show display system that converted hallways and activity spaces into gallery spaces.
Like the previous iteration, there was much more demand for the project than the project could meet, organizers said. They were able to offer two training sessions on facilitating the storytelling workshops -- one at St. Luke’s Health Services in Oswego and one at the Town of Clay Senior Center. These workshops helped connect the project team with future collaborators and expand the reach of the project.
“Recollection II” received support from CNY Arts, the Leon J. Goldberg Foundation and the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.
While the current pandemic has shaped some of thinking about how to expand this project and how to help communities and families feel connected and engaged when social distancing is a norm, the SUNY Oswego team remains committed to the goals and outcomes of the project.
For more information or to register, visit the project’s website, recollectionproject.net.