Program Spotlight: Conversations at the Kreeger Museum


Conversations is a special program at The Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC, for visitors with Alzheimer’s disease. The program, like the Museum of Modern Art's Meet Me at MoMA on which it is based, is dedicated to those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. The program incorporates multiple senses and forms of art, including both a visual art component and a music element. A new program is offered each month and programs are delivered four times in total on second and third Mondays.

Formerly the home of David and Carmen Kreeger, the Museum sits on five wooded acres in the District of Columbia. The Museum proudly welcomes approximately one hundred visitors each month to the Conversations program from the greater metropolitan area. Each program is offered when the Museum is closed to the public and, consequently, allows for a special, intimate event for the visitors with Alzheimer’s.

When visitors arrive, they are warmly greeted by staff and given a name tag and a folder with program materials. Then guests are seated in one of the galleries where the selected work of art will be discussed. The ensuing 30 minute art talk invites visitors to engage in a dialogue about the painting or sculpture. The discussion helps make the work a personal experience and one that generates reflections and stimulates memories.

Visitors then move to the Great Hall for the music component of the program. The art talk and music program share a common theme and are designed together to maximize audience engagement. For example, a recent art talk on Picasso's painting, “Cafe de la Rotonde” was followed with a Spanish zarzuela (light opera). The musicians sang, danced, and played the piano and castanets. The music component varies for each program during the month; it could involve piano, piano and voice, or guitar.

The Kreeger Museum has received considerable, positive feedback from participants.

"The Conversations program makes such a difference in Mom's life. She loves art and music, so the opportunity to spend time enjoying the beautiful Kreeger Museum, seeing and discussing a striking work of art and then listening to a fabulous music program is such a treat. It lifts her spirits and brings her such joy and makes her feel like her old self,” wrote visitor Karen Pollitz.

Another regular visitor, Dick Gill, wrote, “The program had a good flow that kept me engaged throughout. Thanks for a good show!”

Few museums have specialized programs for visitors with Alzheimer’s, so the Kreeger’s Conversations is quite a unique undertaking. The program is not limited by quantifiable art therapy lessons, as so many arts organizations feel is the only way to reach out to differently-abled audiences; it takes a broader approach to its programming that considers multiple needs and interests of the audience. Conversations is a thoughtful interaction between museum and visitor, which truly responds to the concept of deeper engagement.