Spotlight Arts Organization: Tidewater Arts Outreach

September, 2013

Tidewater Arts Outreach (TAO) recently presented a workshop about a unique process for reaching people with dementia using visual arts.  The ”Opening Minds Through Art” facilitator’s training workshop was co-presented with Sentara Life Care.  The workshop brought Elizabeth Lokon from Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, where she developed the Opening Minds Through Art (also known as ‘OMA’) model.

“’Opening Minds Through Art’ is a well-thought-out process of creating beautiful, vivid, abstract art.  The methods used allow for each individual’s need to be successful, engaged and creative, in ways that are appropriate for adults and using tools and steps that are easy and yet complex. “Opening Minds Through Art” uses art-making as a way to focus on the person’s abilities and individuality instead of a more typical focus on the disease and the diminishing abilities.  In that sense, the process really is about opening the minds of others—student volunteers, family members and caregivers – to the world of someone living with dementia.”

The mission of OMA is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that creative expression improves physical and psychological well-being in persons with dementia. To that end, the process is inter-generational, teaming up 12 people with dementia with twelve student volunteers, who work together over the course of several months to create a body of artwork.  The resulting gallery exhibition celebrates the artists’ accomplishments and educates the public about the creative capabilities of people with dementia.

One participant, a nursing home activities director, commented, “(This represents) …a whole new way of looking at working with and improving quality of life for the elderly.”

In addition to workshop presentations, TAO matches area artists with opportunities to share their talents with the special needs community, and creates hundreds of programs annually that take place in nearly 70 congregate care settings.  Thousands of participants who live with disability, infirmity, crisis or other limiting circumstances, take part in TAO’s programs of music, arts, dance, drama poetry and more. 
To learn more about Tidewater Arts Outreach visit

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