Interview: Connect the Dots Charitable Trust

We recently caught up with the great people at Connect the Dots Charitable Trust. If you haven’t heard of them and the great work they do – read on!

We have been following the story of Connect the Dots from the beginning, but for those who are discovering you for the first time, please tell us a little about the organisation and how it came about.

Connect the Dots grew out of a shared passion that we have for the arts and creativity, and how we believe that they should be accessible for everyone. In our professional lives, we had seen gaps in programming that focused on young women, elderly, and those from a refugee or migrant backgrounds.

We thought we would break out on our own, and establish programmes that work at a community level, responding to the needs of the communities we are in.

 

You regularly work with dementia patients, how have you seen their lives impacted by viewing and making art?

We are privileged to chat about art and make art with so many wonderful people, some of whom are living with dementia, and others who are caring for them during what is clearly a very challenging and emotional time. There are many different elements to the programme that make it impactful for our participants. Art has such enormous value in society, and we use it to generate discussion around what the work makes us think about, how the colours or textures make us feel, what the subject matter reminds us of. The conversations are rich and fun and incredibly creative in themselves! One of our regular participants brings her mother to the tours and has this to say:

On a personal note, my involvement in the programme has helped ease the burden and profound isolation of being a full-time caregiver of a parent with dementia. Interventional art has also helped me to understand the inner world of my mother’s dementia and increased my ability to relate to and empathise with her. Likewise, I believe that participation has made a significant difference to my mother’s social skills and language retention. It has also helped her maintain positive self-esteem, provided a sense of belonging through involvement in a fun group environment, and sparked joy in her life.

 

Your ‘Girls to the Front’ project sounded very cool – please tell us about the project (programme?) and what the impetus was for it?

Girls to the Front was the first programme we piloted together in December 2014, and it really grew from our own personal experiences of being a young woman who was about to transition from intermediate to high school. We were sharing our experiences, and the challenges we faced at that age, and thought wouldn’t it have been wonderful if we could have been encouraged to see other girls as a source of confidence and courage, as opposed to threats or competition. We wanted to build an environment, where art was the tool, but behind everything we did was creating a network of support and trust, and lifting each other up.

 

We hear that you will be releasing some new research in relation to dementia soon, can you tell us anything about this yet and if not, how can folk access this research when released?

We were very fortunate to have Sarah Stewart, from Edinburgh University, come and spend three months with us earlier this year. She observed our Make Moments programmes, ran focus groups and did one-to-one interviews with participants, carers and industry professionals. She gifted us an incredible insight into our programming at a key stage in its development, and has left us with some key areas to build and improve on.

Our research will be accessible on our website as a downloadable pdf. There is also a page on our website that summarises the main points of the document. We are holding some Professional Development workshops in November 2017 and Summer 2018 where people can learn more about Make Moments.

 

If an angel donor deposited $1,000,000 into Connect the Dots account tomorrow – what would you do first? (at Artists Alliance we dream like this regularly)

We have notebooks filled with our dreams of how Connect the Dots could grow and develop even if we had funding just to work one day a week! We run the charity as volunteers while having paid jobs elsewhere, but were lucky enough to get funded by Foundation North this year to spend ten days working on all the behind the scenes huis, networking, planning and administration – so you can probably appreciate that the idea of a million dollars is just too much to wrap our heads around!

In a nutshell we would want to roll out more programmes, using more of Auckland’s fantastic galleries and outdoor sculpture exhibitions, train artists to facilitate the programme, as well as create practical training and resources for people who support people with living with the dementia to practice these techniques at home. We may also have notes about partnerships with the SPCA in those notebooks – bringing dogs on our outdoor sculpture tours, and other such wonderful things!

What’s most important to us is that what we do has meaning and relevance to the people we do it with, so we’d be checking in with them about what their dream looks like!

 

How can people find out more about what you do, where to contact you and how to donate their millions?

One of our spectacular volunteers has created a beautiful website for us (using all the gorgeous branding created by another of our volunteers!), so take a look at that: www.connectthedots.org.nz. They can also find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/Connectthedotscharitabletrust and Instagram www.instagram.com/connect_the_dots_nz/ (they may need to spend some time sifting through images of the hounds!).

If you visit our donate page on our website you can give through GiveALittle, or connect with us at info@connectthedots.org.nz