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A Creative Key to Brain Health: Making Junk Mail Collagesby Matt Olin on March 23, 2021
“You should see the participants let their guard down while they play with their food. This from a generation of people who demanded that their children ‘stop playing with their food!’”– Kelly Adams, Life Enrichment Coordinator at The Ivey
Tucked away in the woods near SouthPark Mall, you’ll find The Ivey, a nonprofit organization serving individuals living with memory loss and their caregivers. This is where artist Kelly Adams does her best work – and isn’t afraid to get a little messy doing it.
Playing With Their Food (and Other Stuff)
The Ivey offers virtual and onsite sessions to individuals living with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. They also provide respite for family caregivers. Adams serves as one of the organization’s many Life Enrichment Coordinators. After just a few months, her “Upcycle Arts” programs are a surprising hit.
Participants are challenged to create art out of recycled materials like egg cartons, pill bottles and celery – items that most people already have at home.
Without showing participants what the end product is supposed to look like, she invites them to start creating.
“You should see the participants let their guard down while they play with their food,” says Adams. “This from a generation of people who demanded that their children ‘stop playing with their food!’”
Freedom Over Results
Adams makes sure to create room for participants to enjoy the freedom of the process, rather than worrying about the end result. She feels passionately about the results she’s seen from this type of approach.
“I volunteered at a young age at a nursing home, calling Bingo and doing crafts,” she said. “I saw the positive effects of art on people. It could unlock a memory or improve their mood. Even back then, I knew what I was doing with them was important.”
Having Fun With Art Is in Her Blood
While Adams’ art training has been limited to community classes rather than formal training, her family – including her father, siblings, and extended family – are artistic, too. Creativity has always been in her blood.
“I liked to color and doodle,” she says. “What I really loved was to try to imitate the drawings in the comics strips and cartoons. I tried to come up with my own characters, too.”
That whimsy is on display in the playful, innovative art projects she undertakes with members of The Ivey.
“I love creating art from found items or things that might be considered junk,” Kelly shares. “My favorites are tactile arts, like working with clay, metal and fabric.”
So far, they’ve made everything from ornaments and collages out of junk mail, to paintings created with celery, green peppers and forks. Members are having so much fun that they continue to create things on their own or with their family and caregivers.
“They don’t take themselves too seriously,” claims Kelly, “and they are so surprised and proud of the final product.”
Inspired by Charlotte’s Creativity
Since moving to the Queen City five years ago, Kelly enjoyed discovering the creative side of Charlotte.
“I love the art museums and I am so happy to see the public art in parks and on the streets around town. I can’t wait for the free concerts to come back to the Whitewater Center!”
Charlotte’s creativity inspires Kelly to share that creative energy to The Ivey’s members each week.
“When I create things, I feel anchored,” she tells us. “Some people find journaling is good to clear their heads. I keep art journals for the same reason. Creating on a page or making an item to hold, is me taking care of myself. I love sharing my excitement for art with others.”
The Ivey’s staff has taken notice of Adams’ impact, too. Lynn Ivey, The Ivey’s CEO, says, “If a participant tells Kelly that they’re not an artist, Kelly just tells them: ‘Everyone is creative!’”
“And then, the fun begins.”