Nancy Gareh - Canada

Nancy Gareh at Public Senior's Exhibition
Nancy Gareh at Public Senior's Exhibition


1.  Please share who you are, and the name of your art studio/expressive art program. 


My name is Nancy Gareh and I have been working as the Education & Program Manager at the Art Gallery of Sudbury / Galerie d’art de Sudbury since 2001. The Art on the Go for Seniors program has facilitated hands on expressive art programs for more than 6,000 seniors in several facilities across the City of Greater Sudbury, Ontario Canada.     


2.  What population do you serve and why do you enjoy working with this demographic?


The Art Gallery of Sudbury serves a wide demographic  from toddlers to seniors and everything in between. I have made the “Art on the Go for Seniors” a priority for the Gallery since 2005 and very much enjoy working  with seniors and memory impaired adults. 

Outreach Artist and Senior Resident
Outreach Artist and Senior Resident

3.  Please share a descriptive “snapshot” of one of your art sessions, your studio/workspace, and describe the emotional “atmosphere” of your sessions. 


 Pina DiBendetto is an outreach artist that regularly facilitates workshops at a couple of centres.  She had brought bouquets of flowers to use as still life for her class and was assisting one of the residents who is partially blind. The resident and artist was using touch to get a feel for the textures and shapes of the flowers. Lamps are brought in for better light, soft music plays and residents get individual attention.


4.  How do you make people feel at ease so that they can more comfortably express themselves? 


The sessions are kept smaller and more manageable so that individual attention can be given to the residents. Themes are presented at each session and stories are encouraged to spark dialogue and recall memories.



5.  Could you share an example of an art directive or an art theme that you might typically use in your art program? 


In one workshop session we invited therapy dogs to join the sessions. The dogs made their rounds to seniors, we laughed, told stories and painted images of the dogs with mixed media jewelled collars. This was a very popular event! 


Therapy Dog
Therapy Dog


 6.  What most touches you most about the art groups that you facilitate? 


I love to see the amazement from seniors who had never painted before when they have created something so special and unexpected.


Quilt Drawing of Car Parts
Quilt Drawing of Car Parts

7.  Could you share a story about how art making has facilitated change, deeper connection, or emotional or psychological healing for an individual member of your art group? 


The quilt theme was popular with Alzheimer’s patients as it allowed them to repeat patterns using a variety of art materials and in several instances it was very successful in recalling memories. One gentleman with advanced dementia started drawing car parts and wheels, remembering his life as an auto mechanic. Another patient who rarely spoke in English anymore, recalled stories of her dog that she had when she was young. These  fleeting moments in time give the patient a calm that does not happen in many other activities.


8.  Could you share a story or anecdote about something that is challenging about running your art program? 


We love our volunteers and resident helpers who come to assist the artists with the program. Even though we provide training and hand out a workshop expectation sheet for newcomers helping with the program, we still have challenges with them wanting to paint for the senior participant or interfering with their process. We are constantly reinforcing this!  


9. What personally motivates you to facilitate art in the way that you do? Who are

you as a creator and a teacher? What makes your art program unique?


Art on the Go is a project that began as a way to bring an older demographic to

the Gallery. As we are in a heritage mansion, the building is unfortunately not

accessible. This “problem” has made me want to reach out to a wider

audience, treatment hospitals, Independent living centers, Alzheimers,

daycares and schools with special needs that are unable to visit us. We want

to bring not only a creative arts program but a feeling of community and

belonging by bringing the Art Gallery to them.



10. How can people reading this article support your work in the world? How can

people find out more about you?


The Art Gallery of Sudbury can be reached at


Our book “Painting Memories – Alzheimer’s and Art” can be found on our website.


I can be reached at Nancy Gareh, Education and Program Manager – 705-675-4871 extension 224 or