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Dr. Susan Shifrin contemplates a work at The Barnes Foundation during an ARTZ event.

Art of the Mind

By James Conley

Helping dementia through discussions of art

CHESTNUT HILL, PA—Local museums are helping those who suffer dementia by opening their doors to ARTZ Philadelphia—an organization dedicated to helping those with dementia. 

As described by its founder, Dr. Susan Shifrin, “ARTZ Philadelphia was founded on the belief that people living with dementia should be accorded the benefits of well-being and quality of life that others enjoy. We offer opportunities for interactions around arts and culture that turn this belief into reality. We are committed to supporting and celebrating people with dementia and their care partners as valued members of our wider creative community.”

Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill is one of many in our area which participates with ARTZ. Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in Chestnut Hill, the museum is dedicated to the art and artists of Philadelphia. The building and grounds, together with the core of the collection, are the gifts of Charles Knox Smith (1845 – 1916), who purchased the estate in 1898 with the intent of transforming it into a showcase for his great collection of art. Smith opened Woodmere’s doors to the public in 1910.

A passionate collector of contemporary art in his day, Smith was a civic leader of stature, serving on Philadelphia’s Common Council (the precursor to today’s City Council).

Woodmere’s collection consists of more than 8,000 works of art, and nine galleries offer exhibitions and programs that serve adults and children.

Woodmere is only one of several participating museums in the ARTZ program. As explained by Dr. Shifrin, there are many options for those interested in attending. “These informal, no-obligation programs offer weekly opportunities to join with others in museums and art centers around the Greater Philadelphia area. It all starts with the art: we look together at 2-3 works of art during an hour of group conversation. Groups are limited in size to 6-8 ,with dementia plus their care partners to ensure an intimate and comfortable experience for everyone. Programs are free of charge Our mission is to provide opportunities for self-expression and for the rebuilding of self-esteem and dignity to people with dementia and those who care for them. We achieve this mission through evidence-based programs that connect people living with dementia and their care partners with artists, cultural organizations, and each other.”

ARTZ Philadelphia was founded on the belief that people living with dementia should be accorded the benefits of well-being and quality of life that others enjoy. If you and your loved one would like to participate, contact ARTZ: 610.721.1606, or info@artzphilly.org



The Reflecting Pool at The Barnes Museum. Philadelphia’s Barnes Museum houses one of the largest collections of Impressionist works in the world.

The Reflecting Pool at The Barnes Museum. Philadelphia’s Barnes Museum houses one of the largest collections of Impressionist works in the world.

Dr. Shifrin discusses works at The Barnes Museum with a group of ARTZ participants.

Dr. Shifrin discusses works at The Barnes Museum with a group of ARTZ participants.

ARTZ sessions encourage both reflection and participation.

ARTZ sessions encourage both reflection and participation.

A couple discusses a painting at The Barnes Museum.

A couple discusses a painting at The Barnes Museum.

Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill is a frequent location for ARTZ sessions.

Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill is a frequent location for ARTZ sessions.

Woodmere’s collection consists of more than 8,000 works of art, and nine galleries offer exhibitions

Woodmere’s collection consists of more than 8,000 works of art, and nine galleries offer exhibitions

ARTZ conducting a session in one of the Woodmere’s many galleries.

ARTZ conducting a session in one of the Woodmere’s many galleries.