Calmness found in watercolor creativity
For Raquel Sanchez creative painting is second nature.
"They tell me to make a picture and I just draw it up," said Sanchez, a resident at Woodburn's Silver Creek Senior Living.
For the third consecutive year, Sanchez has created a watercolor work that has been selected for auction in the Alzheimer's Association's fundraising gala, "Memories in the Making" which takes place Friday, May 10, in Portland. Sanchez and other artists will be recognized on Tuesday, April 30, during a private reception for families.
Sanchez takes the kudos in stride.
"For three years the ladies have (submitted) my pictures. If she didn't send it in, I wouldn't win."
Well, that almost happened this year.
Silver Creek Activity Director Jeannette Macauley said the submission timing this year flirted with the cutoff point, but that just seemed to bring more elation when the good news came.
"When I got the phone call (accepting the submission), I think I made her nervous, because I was so excited," Macauley said. "We weren't sure we were going to get it this year. We waited until the last (deadline) minute, and we almost missed it. Then when we won, it was like 'Yay!' We are just so proud of her painting all around here."
Although the validation is nice, Sanchez has said her activity is about the process more than anything else. And that coincides with the Memories in the Making objective.
"Memories in the Making is a unique fine-arts watercolor painting program for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias," said Stacey Smith, marketing and communications manager with Alzheimer's Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington. "The program's creative process provides a safe and validating environment for artistic expression, resulting in a creative and nonverbal way to communicate and capture precious moments through art," Smith said. "Art experience is not required."
Smith said Alzheimer's Association hosts the early-stage Memories in the Making program in Portland, Beaverton and Eugene, and numerous care communities across Oregon and southwest Washington are trained to offer this effective program to their residents.
Silver Creek environs are adorned with a number of brilliant watercolors delivered by Sanchez's hand. Macauley pointed to an especially bright floral work and said she was surprised the Alzheimer's Association didn't take that one for auction.
"I didn't send it to them," quipped Sanchez, revealing a touch of the keeper mindset.
Macauley marvels at the prolific output.
"I think she just has it in her...she just does it," the activity director said. "(Auction submissions) come from all over the place, but they must come from memory patients — patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia.
"I can't help her in any way; she has to do everything," she added.
Beyond the finished work, the activity of painting is therapeutic. Sanchez, 66, battles epilepsy and dementia, which can trigger "the shakes," which can in turn render disorientation. Calming activities can help keep the shakes at bay.
Sanchez painting activity began about four years ago with a class, "Painting with Arilla," which she discovered that she enjoyed. Ultimately, she would even take time to help others at Silver Creek when they took on painting activities.
Two years ago, her submission of three vibrantly-colored snails caught the attention of the Alzheimer's Association. It became one of 16 accepted for auction at that year's gala.
Last year, her submission of sea horses was also accepted, while this year's submission will be unveiled at the reception.
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