Arts & Older People Program

I have worked with the Arts Council NI and Una Lynch of Sonrisa Solutions on several occasions to illustrate the impact of creativity on how we age.  It is always a sobering yet overwhelmingly positive experience to work on these projects.

Not So Cut Off; Arts Council Northern Ireland Arts & Older People Programme

In 2015 the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) commissioned a pioneering report to complement the evaluation of their Arts and Older People Programme (AOPP). The AOPP was an innovative 3 year programme launched in 2009 with the aim of promoting social inclusion for older people. The aim of the report was to illustrate the impact of AOPP in alleviating social isolation and loneliness by inviting a public health researcher to co author the report with an artist of their choice. Una Lynch (Sonrisa public health specialist) invited Joan Alexander to tender for the commission on the basis of her work with Shadows, time and ageing. Lynch and Alexander successfully proposed to use Shadow casting and Shadow tracing images throughout the report to complement the written text and illuminate key findings and learning. The report, “Not So Cut Off” was published and launched in April 2016, the full the full version  is here and the summary here.

Omnipresent, but not always visible, shadows are a useful metaphor in representing the different thoughts, feelings and experiences associated with loneliness and isolation. In Shadow Studies Alexander uses the shadow as a tool to create images through a process of delicate tracing and casting. These creative processes become integral and visible in the final images.While the shadow is often seen as a foreboding sign of danger, of the unknown, a dark or sinister image, in Alexander’s work, the shadow is considered as a magical presence, a silent loyal twin, only appearing with the light. In contrast to the loneliness and isolation that may surround us as we age, the shadow is a constant attachment (in isolation) and witness (to the lonely).