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Arts and Health Australia

National Leadership in Arts and Health

Chris MeadChris Mead

It was 10 years ago in N/W Tasmania that a one man enterprise named "Creature Tales" began producing thematic interpretive story based projects in cultural tourism. A creative team of a director and a producer was established 5 years ago with Stephanie Finn joining Chris and the focus today is in driving long term cultural development and creative ageing initiatives. The strength of the work is based on brokering partnerships and nurturing engagement through intergenerational exchange that taps into collective values and ideas. Much of the work concentrates on the pivotal transitions at the start and end of life with the aim of producing art outcomes that influence social change. Creature Tales is recognised as a national award winning arts organisation, continues to create opportunities for artists in a region of high unemployment, and is delivering innovative collaborative works for better health, learning and economic outcomes.

Theatre makers raise curiosity when they transform environments, so how does this impact the wellbeing of residents with dementia?

Animated Anthologies was made possible through a collaboration between The Indirect Object, Creature Tales and Island Care supported by Tas Regional Arts.

Theatre makers/Puppeteers, Beth McMahon and Michael Bevitt approached Arts & Health organisation Creature Tales to explore the idea of living and working with 23 residents in a dementia secure wing. The approach to the work was task focussed in purposefully transforming a communal area with the construction of an installation reminiscent of themes of everyday life. It was indirect in its approach so that residents could self-determine their level of participation. The work was an immersive and a gradual process, intentionally matched and led by the relationships formed. Curiosity fostered stories of the past - real or imagined - which ignited a process of theatre making on themes deeply connected to the individual. The "shack" installation altered everyday, was adorned with colour, texturely reminiscent and enchantingly whimsy in intent to draw active or passive participation. At the conclusion of the residency the puppeteers performed one-on-one vignettes created on site, inspired by and for each individual resident. The performance was a figurative synthesis of elements of the residents lives past, present and future - literally an animated anthology.

Animated Anthologies achieved more than the original project plan. The puppeteers created an installation that grew each day, engaging the residents in the making and creating. The installation became the performance space on the final day but over the course of the week it was a meeting place, a centre for conversation and interaction encompassing familiar and domestic activity. It was a socially inclusive nest to collaborate with artists, staff and families, revealing significant learnings and a model of arts engagement in an environment with people living with dementia.