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Student spearheads project to fight Alzheimer's disease, dementia
10/17/13

The Alfred University (AU) Foundry Guild, Glass Club, and Golden Years Club are teaming up to spearhead a multi-step project to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project, formerly the Alzheimer’s Iron Project, is a series of events combining the classic arts of metal casting and glassblowing with the need for more funding for research of Alzheimer’s, a disease which inhibits thinking, memory, and behavior and affects over five million Americans.

The events, part of the ongoing Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project, will kick off with the opening of the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron POUR HARD Gallery Shows on Friday, Oct. 25 from 7-9 p.m. at the Turner Gallery, Harder Hall. This gallery will hold an exhibition of metal arts as well a sampling of works produced for the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron project and will be on display until Sunday, Oct. 27. The gallery is open to the public free of charge.

The next activity will be the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Demo on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Harder Hall hot shop. Everyone is invited to come watch glass blowing artists create a sculpture based on a painting made by a local Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. This sculpture will later be auctioned off to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

Also on Oct. 26 will be the MELTDOWN! Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Pour from 2 p.m.-dusk at the National Casting Center Foundry in Alfred, located just before the Tinkertown Hardware store on the left-hand side. The public is encouraged to attend this free event, which will feature the creation of iron and glass sculptures based on paintings by local Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. The iron pour will also include face painting, pumpkin carving, and music. Attendees will also be able to carve their own sculpture designs into scratch blocks, which will then be used for the creation of sculptures which will be available to take home that day.

On Saturday mornings, members of the Golden Years Club, which is devoted to interacting with and assisting the elderly, have been working with local dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to create watercolor and iron-oxide artwork. Members of the Foundry Guild then work to create molds based on the elements within the artwork; the result is cast iron and glass sculptures inspired by the memories, visions, and interests of patients living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. These sculptures will be auctioned off in spring 2014.

AU student Rosemarie Oakman, founder and president of the Golden Years Club as well as co-president of the Foundry Guild, also founded the Alzheimer’s Iron Project as a capstone project for her involvement in the Gary Horowitz Leadership Development Program. An art major with an interest in gerontology, Oakman first interacted with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients through volunteering at local nursing homes with the Golden Years Club.

“There’s a huge lack of cross-generational interaction when elderly develop Alzheimer’s and dementia,” says Oakman. “It’s difficult for grandchildren to go and visit their grandparents when their grandparents don’t remember their name anymore.”

Oakman says that the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project developed as she fused her passion for metalworking with a passion for helping the elderly.

“I knew that the metal casting community would be really supportive of the project and help get the word out. I would be educating artists about how to cast iron as well as educating them about Alzheimer’s disease and how to volunteer with the elderly. It’s really about the concept of a fleeting memory made into an eternal artwork,” she explains. The Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project was established in February 2013 and has already hosted a number of events. This summer, Oakman worked to create paintings with the elderly and establish chapters of the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project at Salem Art Works in Salem, NY, located in Washington County and at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, AL.

Creating collaborative artwork has had a positive effect on the patients and the students, notes Oakman. While working with students improves the demeanor and outlook of the Alzheimer’s patients, the students are learning to connect and interact with very wise and valuable members of the community. The sessions are therapeutic for everyone involved, she says.

Although Oakman is graduating in spring 2014, she hopes that her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project will extend well beyond her years at Alfred. In summer 2014, she will be attending the International Contemporary Cast Iron Art Conference in Latvia, where she will assist AU Professor of XXXXX Dr. Coral Lambert and present on a Community Arts panel about the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project. When she returns, she will be an Emerging Artist at Salem Art Works where she will continue administrating the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project.

Oakman hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in art therapy and to continue to be involved in the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project, either as part of her career or as a side activity.

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Project and to see examples of the artwork please visit http://www.alzheimersiron.blogspot.com/