Budding artists at a Dorset dementia care home have begun producing work under the guidance of a professional.
Johanna Kennedy-Wall is a New Forest-based artist who specialises in murals, portraits, and sculpture.
When she gave a one-hour taster session at Colten Care’s Fernhill home in Longham near Bournemouth, staff were impressed with how much joy and inspiration it gave participants, so they invited her back.
Johanna has now started monthly art classes at the Outstanding-rated home involving a range of media including watercolours, pastels and acrylics.
“We’re stimulating lots of conversations and triggering memories,” said Johanna, who is renowned for her equine art. “Some people were a little nervous to begin with but I could see them warming up towards the art and letting themselves go. The atmosphere is calm and engaged and everyone gets something out of it.”
Johanna was recommended to approach care homes when she gave a session for volunteers at the not-for-profit group In Jolly Good Company.
This was set up to help alleviate the physical and mental issues caused by loneliness and isolation through friendship, joy and a sense of community.
Some of its clients live with dementia or memory loss and her students felt she could make a positive difference to those at care home experiencing the same issues.
“I find the care home classes really satisfying and enjoyable,” said Johanna. “Fernhill is such a welcoming home and it is lovely to see the residents get involved. As well as pictures on paper, we’re painting pebbles from the beach, doing decoupage on upcycled glass jars, creating collages and decorating vintage memory boards. It all underpins conversations about colours, visions and memories.”
Resident Doris Smith, a former opera singer, said: “Painting is a new skill for me. I keep looking at what I’m painting and can’t believe what I’ve achieved. Johanna is kind, friendly, helpful and understanding. She makes the class relaxing and enjoyable.”
Doris expressed surprise at one technique demonstrated by Johanna, the application of salt to resist and lighten colour on paper. “I was really interested to hear all about salt touching paper and the difference it can make,” Doris said after one session.
Ann Marie Knight from Fernhill’s Companionship Team said: “Johanna’s sessions are very educational and therapeutic. She teaches the basics and then lets learners enjoy the experience for themselves. Our residents produced some amazing watercolours in their first session which they really enjoyed and we’re only too happy to enable them to do more. We’re going to frame some of the works and put them up in our arts and crafts room. Residents love the idea of that.”