The Agnes Etherington Art Centre introduced a Creative Movement program this week, offering people living with Parkinson’s and their loved ones a look into movement art therapy.
The expansion of arts and wellness has been underway at the centre over the last few weeks.
Charlotte Gagnier, program coordinator at the Agnes, and Amy Booth, local physiotherapist and dance teacher, spoke with The Journal about the Creative Movement program and how it can help those with neurological disorders.
“This was a jumping-off point for moving together and using the Agnes’ beautiful facility for movement because it’s so open and has so much inspiration around,” Booth said.
She previously worked with the Agnes on an exhibition that brought together participants over Zoom during the pandemic to create in companionable solitude.
“That was really the impetus for getting it going.”
According to Gagnier, the focus on arts and wellness at the Agnes has been ongoing through several programs, but Booth’s program offers different perspectives on what art can be.
Art is conventionally engaged in through visuals or sounds, but Gagnier is keen on opening pathways to experiment with art through a non-visual method for movement.
“Experiencing our work through bodies and movement is something you don’t see often in galleries […] I think sometimes visiting an art gallery seems daunting, so I was happy to see the category open doors and make people understand that this is a space for us all.”
Booth explained how giving those living with Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders a space with so many sensory opportunities helps them use movement to communicate rather than words.
“I think it reduces anxiety to listen to music and be silly; it gives us permission to play a little bit where older adults often lose the sense of play in their day.”
Booth has been in love with dance all her life. Working as a physiotherapist, she’s studied how movement can help individuals with neurological conditions regain their strength.
“This has been a way for me to do a little bit of therapeutic movement with people, but not in a clinical setting. I feel like with dance, everyone in the room becomes a dancer.”
In the Creative Movement setting, participants aren’t patients focusing on what’s wrong in how they’re moving, but rather on what they can do.
“So, someone’s presenting with a tremor: maybe all of a sudden we have a shimmer in the air, or something where everything in the way they’re moving is okay and there’s no wrong way to do it,” Booth said.
Booth added the program is not only meant for people who have neurobiological conditions themselves.
“There was a woman whose parents have Parkinson’s, or another with grandparents, spouses, and partners. It creates a bit of an intergenerational experience which is wonderful.”’
The event had participants start in a room all sitting in a circle and gave them time to walk through the exhibits before moving as a group to different areas of the gallery.
“Yesterday we were in the fabrics of representation area and so I was using the literal idea of fabric and texture to inspire our movements.” Booth said.
The program will be recurring every month, touching on different themes of movement to aid in deepening participants’ connection to the art.
“We’ve talked about having someone present who knows more about the art or a live percussionist to make the experience as immersive as possible,” Gagnier said.
Gagnier urged readers of The Journal to check out the offerings for free programming
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