Dementia Friendly Programming at Butler Gallery: An Overview
Butler Gallery began programming for people living with dementia in 2012, when the Azure programme was piloted. Azure was co-founded by Butler Gallery, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Age & Opportunity and the Irish Museum of Modern Art and seeks to explore how greater inclusion for people with dementia could be made possible in an Irish cultural context.
Azure at Butler Gallery invites people living with dementia and their family, friends or professional carers to visit exhibitions, to look and discuss with others in a safe and welcoming environment. Trained facilitators create a warm atmosphere that encourages conversation, where each person gets to enjoy the engagement at their own pace and in their own way. Participants can expect a seated tour of the gallery with time given to experiencing a selection of work from the exhibition. Facilitation strategies are based on the four-step process developed by the Museum of Modern Art New York, Meet Me at MoMA. The tour ends with a cup of tea or coffee in the Castle Tea Rooms, just next to the Butler Gallery.
At the time of writing, Butler Gallery is located in the basement of Kilkenny Castle and is inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or those with mobility difficulties. For this reason in 2013, Butler Gallery began to develop a off-site programme that brings objects from its Permanent Collection out into community, engaging with people living with dementia who otherwise would not be able to access the Gallery. From 2013-2016, this programme has been funded with grant assistance from the IPB Community Engagement Fund. This project funding also enabled a special project to take place in 2016, where a selection of photographs from a 2015 Butler Gallery exhibition by artist Gypsy Ray provided the stimulus for a series of collaborative story-telling workshops facilitated using the TimeSlips method.
As Butler Gallery awaits a move into a new and fully accessible building, this offsite work is considered key to developing and maintaining relationships with people living with dementia who are more marginalised and have greater difficulty accessing arts experiences.