Mary Lou Grace Robison

art alzheimer's

No matter how hard it gets, I know that my grandma has lived an amazing life. She worked in the medical field until she was about 85. She was also an equestrian, a cook, a gardener, and a lover of music and the ocean. She was loving towards her kids and grandkids. A strong-willed and independent woman, my grandma would do anything for us. 

By: Mary Lou Grace Robison

As told to: Niki Chen

All photos courtesy of Mary Lou Grace Robison

Mary Lou Grace Robison, granddaughter of Mary Lou Cormier, is a 19-year-old student whose AP Art Portfolio portrayed her grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Grace won gold at state-level as well as two silvers and a gold at national-level contest. She then uploaded a video of her art on TikTok, garnering attention and support. 

My maternal grandmother, Mary Lou Cormier, started losing her memory about six years ago. It began with the little things like forgetting where she put something. However, her memory has since declined a lot — my grandma would forget who my brother and I were. 

Throughout her battle with Alzheimer’s, my grandma has been grateful for everything that she’s been given. Her positive mentality has always stuck with her, and I admire her independence and strength. Spending time with her, even now, means the most to me. 

In my portfolio for AP Art, I wanted to portray my grandma’s journey with Alzheimer’s, preserving her honor and raising awareness about the disease. I began thinking back on the progression of her disease, looking at old pictures and talking to my family for ideas. I decided to create art pieces that illustrated how Alzheimer’s affected my grandma’s life, how she lost memories and control over her body, etc.. 

Mary Lou Grace

I entered a national art contest, which offers an award every high school artist works towards. While I didn’t think anything would come from it, I won gold in Texas for my entire portfolio, and attended a ceremony where so many other artists saw my work. Then, I flew to New York where I was honored at Carnegie Hall along with hundreds of other artists from across the country. I felt as if my art touched so many people and supported both the Alzheimer’s and art community. 

Art has not only helped us remember my grandma’s life, but it has also connected us all. My mom was my number one supporter as I worked on my portfolio – she was ecstatic, and brought to tears by my art. It’s also amazing how platforms like TikTok can show your art to a larger audience and create a community. I’m glad I was able to convey my support, showing others how their stories are heard, and that Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects many people. 

My advice for others who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s is to take care of yourself. I’ve seen how hard it is, and how my mom and I have stretched ourselves thin on occasion, worrying about my grandma. It breaks my heart watching my mom, who has been amazingly strong for all of us, wrestle with the decline of my grandma, all the while coping with the pressure of supporting our family. Prioritizing you and your family’s mental health and well-being is essential. 

Mary Lou Grace

Finding a circle of people who can support you is super helpful. My grandma has a lot of friends about her age, as well as close doctors who were able to help our family navigate the disease and support our mental health, especially my mom’s.

You just have to accept that it’s happening. Alzheimer’s is probably the worst disease people can have when they age: Focus on preserving who people were, perhaps through art as I did, and cherish your memories of them that make you happy.

No matter how hard it gets, I know that my grandma has lived an amazing life. She worked in the medical field until she was about 85. She was also an equestrian, a cook, a gardener, and a lover of music and the ocean. She was loving towards her kids and grandkids. A strong-willed and independent woman, my grandma would do anything for us.