Charles Adair * Imurj
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dementia create empathy art of mind imurj

Charles Adair

Art Of Mind

Charles Adair: Empathy Through Art

Ever since I was 6 years old, I have played the piano.  One of the main reasons that I chose to learn piano instead of another instrument was because my grandfather was an amazing pianist.  Anytime he would pass a piano he would sit down and play one of his favorite pieces.  The one I remember most clearly is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  When I was just starting to learn the piano, I remember listening to him play that piece and thinking “I want to be able to play that piece one day” –  it was one of the things that kept me motivated and playing piano over the years.



My grandfather was diagnosed with dementia in his early eighties.  He lived until he was 92.  His slow decline over 10+ years was extraordinarily difficult for him and my family, but it wasn’t any one moment that was singularly painful – rather, it was the slow erosion of will and the consistent, gradually building pressure that had a lasting impact on my family.  Over time he would forget our names, where he was, and many other things that made him the man that he was.  Even his music faded with time.  However, even though he would forget even his favorite pieces of music bit by bit over time, he could always manage to play their themes, even at the very end.



His love for music is one of the things that kept us connected, even when he had forgotten everything else.  I would play music for him and the rest of the assisted living community and sometimes there would be dancing and singing too.  It was in these moments that I knew there was something still there – no matter how deep inside or far away, there was still a spark, just maybe not quite enough to light the fire.  It would take me 10 more years to learn how to play the Rhapsody in Blue all the way through, but every time I play the theme I still think of my grandfather.

dementia create empathy art of mind imurj

Grandma & Grandpa before Dementia

dementia create empathy art of mind imurj

Grandpa after Dementia


Why Empathy through Art?

I personally believe in the power of art, music, dance, and other creative mediums to create not only these moments of connection, but also moments of understanding.  That’s why we’ve started Empathy Through Art.  We’re building a framework and process for using the creative mediums to talk about, understand, create empathy for, and build community around social challenges that we face today.



Why Imurj for Art of Mind?

We’ve partnered with Imurj on our first project focused on Alzheimer’s and Dementia here in downtown Raleigh.  We chose Imurj because of the openness and diversity of the Arts community here.  Every time I come down to open mic or “poetically speaking” I’m amazed at how inclusive the community is and how much support everyone gives each other no matter the style, genre, or background.  Together with Imurj and the Dementia Alliance of NC, we’re launching the project on Friday.  We hope that you will be part of it – join us on May 3rd from 5-9pm at Imurj in downtown Raleigh for our Art of Mind Opening Reception.  We’ve brought together visual art on Alzheimer’s and Dementia from over 45 artists as well as music and spoken word performances on the topic.  We hope to see you there!f


Writer: Charles Adair

charles adair art of mind empathy create