IU East Center for Service Learning, Friends Fellowship Community partnership connects elders with students through art

IU East Center for Service Learning, Friends Fellowship Community partnership connects elders with students through art

Opening Minds through Art (OMA) connects students with elders with dementia and fosters communication, self-worth and social interaction through art projects. Beginning this fall semester, the Indiana University East Center for Service-Learning will partner with Friends Fellowship Community (FFC) to present this innovative service engagement program for the first time.

“This is an excellent opportunity for members of the IU East community to expand their worldviews and, ideally, change their minds about what people with dementia can do,” said KT Lowe, coordinator of library instruction and service-learning at IU East.

Melissa Baxter, OMA program director at Friends Fellowship Community, said, “Friends Fellowship Community looks forward to this expanded partnership with IU East. Opening Minds through Art at FFC is just the person-centered strengths based program that fits our mission. We are excited to offer students a chance to engage in intergenerational relationships which will increase resident artists’ well-being as well as the students’ own professional development, both personal and academic. OMA has the capacity to grow our volunteer and internship opportunities for local students in a very meaningful way.”

Lowe is a certified OMA facilitator, having earned a scholarship in February 2015 to attend OMA training. Lowe was very impressed by the quality of the artwork produced by the elders.

“I think those who participate will be surprised at what they discover while working with these artists, not only about the work itself but also about the lives of the artists they’re working with. This will prove beneficial for everyone involved, and I’m thrilled that we’re able to offer it this year among our other service engagement opportunities,” Lowe said.

The OMA program at IU East will pair student and staff volunteers with older people living with dementia in a one-on-one partnership that meets once a week for nine weeks. These pairings will produce works of abstract art, with the elder as the artist and the volunteer supporting the artist through encouragement, communication and occasional physical assistance.

The fall semester will end with an OMA Art Show and Reception for resident artists and students from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 3, at Friends Fellowship Community.

For more information about the OMA program at IU East, contact KT Lowe at lowekat@iu.edu or 765-973-8434.

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