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May 25, 2016 |

Community Collaboration Combating Stereotypes of Grandmas and Graffiti Artists

Damon McLeese runs an art gallery in Denver. Damon’s mother had some dementia issues before she passed away.  One day he was heading to the gallery and his mother exclaimed, ‘Oh, I wish could come with you because I’m tired of doing coloring books. I’m tired. I want to just get out of this place.’ And that’s how the idea for “Granny Does Graffiti” began.

We start with the idea that graffiti is about leaving your mark. If you’re a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, that’s probably crossed your mind. We want to make sure we’re remembered. We talk about making tags, shapes and symbols to represent ourselves.

The art gallery that Damon runs is called SA Colorado. This is no ordinary art gallery. SA Colorado is a state organization on arts and disabilities that is committed to promoting the creative power of people with disabilities. The “Granny Does Graffiti” is collaboration between SA Colorado and the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association’s SPARK! program. The goal of the SPARK program is to connect cultural institutions to people who have mild memory loss, early stage Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

The idea is to have people battling the irreversible disease try something more than coloring books. It’s a chance for them to interact with new people, to face new challenges.

The collaboration seeks to break down the stereotypes of what people with Alzheimer’s can do and what graffiti artists can do and understand what art can do to bridge that gap. “Granny Does Graffiti” isn’t the only program pairing street artists with grandparents to teach the art of spray paint and combat stereotypes.

Aging Action Initiative Combating Stereotypes of Old Age

In Lisbon, Portugal there is a program called Lata 65 which is a collaborative effort between Cowork Lisgboa and Wool | Covilhã Urban Art Festival.  The program brings together a group of notable street artists to teach 100 senior citizens aged 65+ the graffiti arts. The collaboration seeks to bring people of all ages together rather than allow the generational stereotypes continue to widen the divide between the old and the young.

To learn more about the Granny Does Graffiti program, click here

To meet the graffiti grannies of Lisbon, click here

Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commission and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin and coordinated by MARINSPACE, collaborating for an age-friendly environment. For more information visit or connect with us on Facebook.