OMA: Opening Minds through Art

OMA: Opening Minds through Art

Now in its second year, Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is an intergenerational program bringing students together with elders with dementia to produce failure-free works of abstract art. OMA is highly interactive, with the student acting as a facilitator for the elder artist’s vision and abilities. IU East has partnered with Friends Fellowship Community in Richmond to continue this award-winning, enlightening program. Friends Fellowship is the only facility in the state of Indiana to offer OMA to its residents.


OMA uses art projects as a basis for communication between students and elder artists. The end results, besides impressive works of art, include increased self esteem for the artists and increased awareness of dementia for the students. Melissa Baxter, OMA Program Director at Friends Fellowship, said “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.”

“After being involved in this program, I’ve learned that dementia isn’t a straightforward disease, nor does it mean that the person loses all of their abilities overnight, “said KT Lowe, IU East coordinator of Library Instruction and Service Learning. Lowe is a certified OMA facilitator and the IU East coordinator for the OMA program, and has participated in each of the past three semesters. “It’s expanded my knowledge of what elders with dementia can accomplish. Plus, the work’s terrific.”


The OMA process is simple but deeply engaging. After two days of volunteer training, students are paired with an elder artist. The pair will work together for the next nine weeks, meeting weekly with a new project every week. The art projects themselves are broken down into a series of easy-to-follow steps which offer room for decision making, personal expression and elements of surprise. At the end of the nine week sessions, the semester will culminate in an art show, open to the public and displaying work from every artist who participated in the program. Members of the public are invited to attend these shows, where they may bid on OMA artworks in a silent auction. All auction proceeds benefit the program. “I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy being with you,” said one OMA artist to her partner this term.

Right now, it’s easy to take in some OMA art for yourself. The current OMA show, featuring work made in June and July 2016, is on display at Friends Fellowship until August 7th. OMA works are also featured in the Senior Art Show in Whitewater Hall through September 9th. The OMA works at Friends Fellowship are available as silent auction items.


The Fall 2016 OMA schedule begins with training on Thursday, September 8th and Friday, September 9th, with OMA sessions held every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through November 18th. The end-of-semester show will be held at Friends Fellowship on December 1st. OMA is open to all students and IU East faculty and staff. If you are interested, contact KT Lowe at for more information.

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