Former Resident Returns to Present International Documentary on how the Creative Arts help Individuals with Alzheimer’s.

May 17, 2010

Former Brookfield/Elm Grove resident Mary Stott returns to Wisconsin this month to present a groundbreaking film that demonstrates the intersection between the arts, medical and scientific worlds. It is a gripping personal story that has taken on a critical discourse that has far reaching affects for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

 

“I Remember Better When I Paint” is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies in people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease. Featured in the film are noted medical authorities in the field of Alzheimer's as well as Yasmin Aga Khan, president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and daughter of Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s. The documentary is narrated by Academy Award winning actress Olivia de Havilland.

 

Mary Stott, who grew up in the Elmbrook area, is an associate producer on the film. Following graduation from the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin (UWM), she received a Rotary Foundation scholarship for graduate studies in Paris, France, where she now lives and works. She will attend the screening and be joined by the co-directors of the documentary Eric Ellena and Berna Huebner, who are also in town for the Wisconsin premiere from Paris, France. Her mother and stepfather Carol and Dave Nicholson are residents of Brookfield.

 

The inspiration for the film came from the lively and colorful art created by the painter Hilgos late in her career when she had Alzheimer’s. The film grew out of a poignant moment when Berna visited her mother in a nursing home. Berna asked her mother, “Would you like to paint again?” Her mother unexpectedly replied, “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” This inspired Berna to enlist art students to help her mother to begin painting again. Once an accomplished painter known as Hilgos, Berna’s mother regained communication skills and painted again during the next few years until her death at age 93.

 

The idea for the documentary was sparked several years ago after an inspiring speech Mary heard Berna give at an art school in Paris shortly after Hilgos passed away. Berna’s presentation included video footage showing how her mother started to regain quality of life through painting. This footage is included in the documentary.

 

"Mary introduced me to French film director Eric Ellena, who she has known since he was an exchange student at UWM", says Berna, "and he encouraged us to share our story—and said he would like to produce a documentary together."

 

Berna Huebner, who is a native of the Chicago area, says it has been a journey to think about Alzheimer’s in a new way. "In the moments when she painted, my mother truly seemed to come alive. That is why we wanted to share these experiences—in the hope that they will help show how our society can address the challenge of Alzheimer's and other memory problems, not only through the search for new medical treatments which might prevent or at least slow the progression of the disease—as important as they are—but also through the healing, communicative power of the creative arts," says Berna.

 

The documentary, which was released in late 2009, has screened at film festivals, universities and art institutions around the world and has been broadcast on PBS stations in Chicago and Washington, DC. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center on Age & Community and the Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter, are hosting the Wisconsin premiere of the documentary.

 

The event takes place on Thursday, May 27th, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm in the UWM Union Ballroom, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required due to limited seating. To register, please contact Sue Braden at smbraden@uwm.edu or 414.229.2729

 

Following the screening, the filmmakers will participate in a panel discussion with local experts on aging Tom Hlavacek of the Alzheimer's Association and Beth Meyer Arnold of Luther Manor. The event is co-hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Center on Age & Community and the Alzheimer’s Association

 

“Our hope is that the film will help to destigmatize this disease, and inspire people to get those with Alzheimer's involved in therapeutic creative arts,” notes Mary. "My grandmother died of Alzheimer's in the 1990s, and I decided to get involved in the making of this film in her memory. If our family had known that the creative arts could have helped to reestablish communications and create a better quality of life for Grandma Louise, we would have encouraged the nursing home she was in to start a creative arts initiative for the residents with Alzheimer’s."

 

“I Remember Better When I Paint” has been released as part of a DVD package which includes supplemental films on specific initiatives that get people with Alzheimer’s involved in art and creative workshops to improve quality of life and restore a dialogue between caregivers and families. For more information, visit irememberbetterwhenipaint.wordpress.com

 

 

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