Gloria Malooly was a DeWitt art teacher for 30 years, and now more than 30 years after her retirement — at age 94 — she’s still making a difference with art.
A cheerful painting she did of a yellow bird during art therapy at Grand Haven Retirement Community in Eldridge is among about 25 framed artworks by area dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to be auctioned at this year’s “Memories in the Making” fundraiser for the local Alzheimer’s Association.
“She didn’t tell me she was doing it until after I found out that she had done it,” Gloria’s daughter, Sue Patzkowsky (who lives in suburban Chicago) said this week. “I asked her about it. She goes, I don’t know. I remember something about a bird and that’s all she could tell me.”
“It’s a terrible disease and it’s very hard,” Sue (who is a grandmother herself) said of Alzheimer’s. “It doesn’t make it any easier because now, I’m looking at, is this going to be me in 30 years?”
Alzheimer’s is really hard for her because she knows she doesn’t remember, Sue said.
“My grandmother also had it, so this is something she feared her whole life,” she said. “She had it by the time she was probably 70, and she passed away at 78.”
“She was in a happier place at that point because she had gone to the point where she didn’t really remember anything or anyone, but then it wasn’t so scary for her,” Sue said. “My mom’s kind of at that point where some days she does well and other days, she doesn’t. And she knows she’s forgetting, she’s often times afraid she’ll make a mistake.”
Being in memory care helps her mom greatly, though Alzheimer’s treatments haven’t progressed very well. Sue said.
“It releases her anxiety because she doesn’t have to remember anymore what time she needs to go to meals, and if there’s activities — like they’ll come and tell her hey, there’s a concert down in the grand hall,” she said, noting the unit also is a small and the staff gets to know residents very well.
Supporting Alzheimer’s research
Alzheimer’s — a devastating brain disease — affects 6.5 million Americans, a number expected to grow to 13 million by 2050, according to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association. “Memories in the Making” is a benefit for the group, to be held May 19, 2022, 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. at The Bend Event Center, 910 Bend Blvd, East Moline.
Memories in the Making is a one-of-a-kind event that highlights original artwork created by participants living with dementia in the art therapy program. This memorable evening honors those living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia by giving attendees the opportunity to bid on valuable pieces of art in both a silent and live auction. Guests will also enjoy live music and hear the latest updates in Alzheimer’s research during the evening program, including a Mission Moment from a local advocate.
Tickets are $50, available HERE. The deadline to register is midnight tonight.
Memories in the Making is an exceptional art therapy program, that helps people who may not be able to verbalize feelings and memories to convey their emotions through watercolor paintings. Through one-on-one art sessions with a trained facilitator, individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias are able to express themselves, opening doors of communication and awakening memories. During these painting sessions, they are able to engage in meaningful social interactions with their caregivers and peers while increasing confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
With the help of family, friends, and caregivers the program facilitator is able to compose the artists’ stories to accompany the paintings, shedding some light on the memories behind the images we see. This program provides a safe and supportive environment where the participants are encouraged and coached based on their many abilities. Every picture is special, unique, and created entirely by the person affected by memory loss.
The power of art therapy
Michele Green, event co-chair and an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer, said the May 19 event raises awareness “for the power of therapy among the dementia community, and sharing these stories and still making sure these voices are heard because they’re important. These people had lives that have a legacy to leave us, and they’re not done doing that,” she said Thursday.
The event was held virtually in 2020, then in person last November at the Bend Event Center, East Moline.
“There are some exciting neurological studies out there that are now quantifying these outcomes of what art therapy can achieve,” Green said. “It does touch parts of the brain that medications and other therapies just can’t touch.”
Many people with Alzheimer’s may not have the ability to speak clearly, but can express themselves through art.
“Because you lose the ability to express yourself verbally, but you put a paintbrush and some color in front of somebody. They haven’t spoken about or communicated about it any way years. Now, they put that in an image and I’ve seen memories show up in these paintings,” Green said. “Families have essentially lost their loved ones, sort of a long time ago. Maybe they don’t remember their names, but one family, there was fish in a pond and the painting took the kids’ breath away.
“They had lost their dad, and mom did this painting?” she said. “A lot of times. you are now connecting at a deep emotional level, with family and friends around you.”
The Memories event will feature both a live auction and silent auction, of about 25 paintings total, Green said. Some residents worked together on paintings to be sold.
“It’s so exciting to see how many different ways this can go and really empower this group that still deserve to be heard and deserve the dignity of being treated like an adult,” Green said.
There are these moments of magic when we are all in the room together and if the artists can be there, and hold the painting up,” she said. “Sometimes, they don’t remember they did it, but the excitement on their face as the bids go up and up and up, on something they’ve created.
“You bring this moment that no one expected in that disease process, and it’s a journey of celebration and joy, and they are really honored,” Green said. “Those voices need to be amplified and we need to listen to what they’re still trying to tell us, ’cause their souls are still in there, right? They’re still there.”
Lots of art experience
Gloria Malooly graduated from the University of Iowa in 1950 (majoring in art and education), and her husband died from pancreatic cancer at age 31 in 1959. She taught in the DeWitt school system for 30 years, starting an art program in 1961, and retiring in 1991 from teaching at the high school.
She volunteered for the Davenport Museum of Art and later was a docent for the Figge Art Museum, well into her 80s. Gloria didn’t really paint much herself over the years, and the new bird painting was the first thing she did at Grand Haven, her daughter said.
Gloria was a longtime member of the DeWitt Area Fine Arts board, helped organize the annual John Bloom Fine Arts Festival at Lincoln Park in downtown DeWitt, and arranged for area artists to display their work at the First Central Art Gallery, in the lobby of the Operahouse Theatre.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Malooly said in a 2012 article of her involvement in the arts. “I think DeWitt has come a long way in embracing fine arts and a lot of that is due to the terrific teachers we’ve had – Carolyn Eggleston, Ed McMahon, Tom and Jeannie Dean, just to name a few. We also have a community that is interested in and receptive to the arts and they support us. Even just simple exposure to art is beneficial to people’s minds and well-being.
“I’ve tried to cut back a little bit, but I like what I’m doing. Art of any kind is something you can do all of your life; you can continue to be creative. So many people who get involved in the arts continue to be involved. And why wouldn’t they? It’s fun.”
Gloria has lived at Grand Haven in Eldridge for four years, and has been in the memory unit since January 2022. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, click HERE.