Sunday, September 29, 2013

Art in the Face of Dementia

My dad, Fred, is the star and cameraman of this video, "Tipperary", made in 2009. Dad died the following year, but he showed up tonight at the Emily Carr Alumni Reunion, along with the dad of my conversational companion. We were talking about how we were using skills we learned at art school to find a creative response to the daily, relentless good-byes associated with losing a parent to Dementia.

Even though he was already deeply affected by dementia, I invited my dad to my 2008 Emily Carr graduation ceremony. By doing so in his own life, he had been my inspiration to take the plunge and quit my job so that I could finally go to art school while there was still time left in my life to enjoy the benefits. Dad and I got lots of family support so that we could share my big moment. My sister and her husband shepherded Dad off his plane and stayed by him the whole weekend. It was only later that they told me that most of the time Dad wasn't aware that he was in Vancouver. I was given the best seats in the house -- the box right over the stage -- but nobody got more than two tickets. So my son, David, did double duty as my photographer as well as taking care of dad. Sadly, there are very few unblurred photos of walk across the stage, since my dad kept elbowing David and exclaiming (loudly) "There she is! There she is!"

Reunions are a time to reflect, and this is my five-year mark. I feel privileged to have been able to live the dream that I was cooking up while working on this blog as my grad project. I visualized myself as a Community Artist, using the digital media technical skills I'd acquired to support elders in creating projects that were meaningful to them. I've not only been doing this, but also do my own work as part of a collective, Quirk-e (Queer Imaging and Riting Kollective of Elders). I now am writing and performing, as well as continuing with video and photography. When I stand up there and emote, I imagine Fred elbowing some angel and saying "That's my daughter!"

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