How an art project became something more: Highview Hills’ memory wall

Nestled in the heart of Lakeville, Minnesota, the Prairie Suites memory care neighborhood at Highview Hills is a special, tight-knit community.

One of the most beloved parts of this community—by residents, families, and staff alike—is a stunning wall of black-and-white portraits near the entrance.

The wall, featuring photos of all memory care residents, started as a craft project. Inspired by an art program at her children’s school years ago, Life Enrichment Assistant Mary Kay Woehrle wanted residents to continue to learn and contribute to an engaging activity. So, she created an “artist of the month” program for residents in Prairie Suites. After discussing the artist’s life and work, residents create art modeled after each style. “I quickly learned this was something people of all ages enjoyed,” said Mary Kay.

This specific project was based on the work of Dorothy Lang, a photographer known for her work during the Great Depression. Photographing each resident, Mary Kay asked them to put a hand on their face. “The results were stunning,” she said. “Each photo clearly conveys unique personalities and lives. Hands are meaningful because they show all each individual has done.” After Mary Kay printed the photos, the life enrichment team helped residents paint wooden blocks and glue on their portraits.

Executive Director Candace Rovang wanted to display the artwork for all to see, so she developed the idea for the wall in the memory care neighborhood. “This felt like a meaningful and creative way to create a ‘resident directory’ and bring a sense of home when entering our Prairie Suites,” she explained.

When they stroll through the halls or gather in the entryway before an outing, residents recognize their photographs. Seeing themselves among other community members strengthens their sense of identity and belonging. And, Mark Kay noted, the images are treasured by residents’ families.

“This particular black-and-white art display has always moved me,” said Candace. “It shows such deep and genuine emotion. In a world that believes those with dementia can’t communicate, I think this display proves otherwise."

Topics: Communities, Featured

Amy Weiss

Written by Amy Weiss

Walker Methodist storyteller and marketing assistant

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