Each month, we come together at 1:30 pm to have tea with Mindful Connections participants prior to the tour, many of whom have become “regulars.” It’s a time to connect, re-connect, and be social. As I talked with someone today, I told her that we missed her last month. She said that her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, was sick, and they could not attend. She seemed thrilled to be back at the Museum. At another table, I overheard one of our Guides and a Mindful Connections participant talking about their mutual Midwestern roots. I almost hated to stop the conversations in order to get the groups upstairs for their tours!
Up we went. The two tour groups made themselves comfortable in gallery stools, and the conversations on various Himalayan artworks flowed along beautifully. There were moments of laughter, deep looking, and reflective comments all around. I was able to observe instead of co-leading a group today, and it was with a warm sense of pride that I watched all four of our wonderful Guides (Lyndsey, David, Mike, and Megan) as well as their assisting educators (Laura and Dianne) lead such interesting and dynamic discussions based in our collection. I can say with confidence that this program has become such a source of inspiration for all of us. In addition to our “regulars” and a few new folks, we also had a guest visitor who wanted to learn more about the program, with the hopes of bringing her senior center group for a Mindful Connections tour later this fall. She and I sat together with one of the groups, and at one point, she leaned over to me and said “I want to cry, this is so…normal.” If you know much about dementia or have a friend or family member who has dementia, you’ll know that is a huge compliment.
When it comes to museum programs, there’s often a debate on what it means to be “successful.” Museum professionals feel pressure to deliver big numbers. I would suggest that with Mindful Connections, and many programs like it, success is measured in individual lives, with intimate moments between people and works of art, in museum staff members looking forward to their work as much as visitors look forward to the program. These days, we at the Rubin Museum are talking a lot about high impact audiences as a measure of success. I truly believe that with these types of programs, the sky’s the limit.