The MCA develops online artmaking toolkit for people living with dementia

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) has launched a first-of-its-kind online toolkit specifically designed for individuals living with dementia and their support networks. The Artful: Art and Dementia toolkit is an innovative online resource offering artist-led, creative activities based on the Museum’s onsite art and dementia program.

Over three years (2016–2018) the MCA, the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney and Dementia Australia, have undergone a pilot research project looking at how regular art activity can impact on the wellbeing and markers of neuroplasticity of people living with dementia.

Some key findings in the Artful: Art and Dementia report that informed the MCA’s new online toolkit include:

  • 97.5% of respondents found the Artful program helped improve quality of life.
  • 71% of the respondents found the program helped to improve relationships.
  • Care partners: The program allowed for new connections to be built between the participant and their care partner.
  • Play: The importance of play on mental wellbeing and the development of new experiences.
  • Risk-taking: Experimenting with unconventional materials and artmaking processes is empowering for people living with dementia.


The Artful report verifies that contemporary art can have a positive impact on the wellbeing, mental health and relationships for people living with dementia and their care partners. The MCA’s online artmaking toolkit is an unprecedented resource taking key learnings from the art and dementia program to a wider and national audience.

The toolkit provides stimulating activities for people living with dementia and their support networks, removing barriers for people who cannot participate in the Museum’s onsite program. It includes ten artmaking activities inspired by works in the MCA Collection, each complemented by step-by-step instructions, short instructional videos and warm-up questions to help start a conversation about the artwork.

Each of the ten artmaking activities has been specially designed to suit a variety of needs and can be easily integrated into a home setting or used within a healthcare setting such as aged care centres and hospitals.

MCA Public Engagement Manager, Yaël Filipovic, said: ‘Contemporary art is a powerful starting point for people living with dementia to engage and express themselves. We’re delighted that the MCA’s art and dementia program can now be enjoyed by people beyond the Museum and will have a positive impact on their lives.’

As of April 2019, there was an estimated 447,115 Australians living with dementia, with an estimated 250 people joining the population with dementia each day. Professor Sharon Naismith, Director of Healthy Brain at the Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney acknowledges that the Artful report and toolkit responds to the growing need for more creative resources within the health sector.

‘As a society there’s so much more we can do to help people live well with dementia and we’ve seen that art can improve wellbeing and social engagement,’ Naismith said. ‘I have witnessed a sparkle in the eye of many people living with dementia as they engaged in artmaking [at the MCA], enabling them to discover parts of their brain that have likely laid silent for some time,’ she added.

The development of the Artful toolkit has been supported by the Jibb Foundation, as part of its funding focus on arts and health initiatives.

On behalf of the Jibb Foundation, Michelle Gortan, said: ‘The Jibb Foundation are delighted to have partnered with the MCA to bring to life the Artful toolkit. This carefully designed toolkit will provide people experiencing dementia and their care partners with a set of beautiful and stimulating resources developed by the team of specialists at the Museum to use at their own pace and in their own spaces. It will provide high-quality and engaging artmaking experiences which will encourage expression and provide intellectual stimulation.’

Artful: Art and Dementia online toolkit is aligned with the Aged Care Quality Standards outlined by the Australian Government Department of Health and is available to purchase from the MCA website as an individual for $60 or as an organisation for $200.

The executive summary of the Artful: Art and Dementia report is free and also accessible online.

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