Featured Site: The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen

April 17, 2023

This quarter our featured site is The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen! They have implemented OMA in its multidisciplinary art center in Glen Allen, Virginia.

What really sets The Cultural Arts Center apart is its dedication to providing an open-minded space for older adults with dementia, their family members, as well as the greater community surrounding the center. There are over 22,000 older individuals diagnosed with dementia living with an unpaid caregiver in their community. Knowing this, The Cultural Arts Center was encouraged to launch its OMA center as part of their programming.

Despite the challenges that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to utilize grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for their official OMA launch in September 2022. Since then, they have trained over 75 volunteers, with 80 more who have requested training. Amy Holland, who has been a facilitator since the fall of 2020, states that there is a great amount of “depth and richness to the program.”

Holland acknowledges that there’s so much fear and stigma within conversations of their community based on their ideas regarding dementia. Ever since she joined Glen Allen in 2019, she realized there was a possibility that due to their isolated population, their lack of connection has contributed to this particular concern. What is so special about the OMA Center at Glen Allen is the parallel program for caregivers. Based on the feedback from the caregivers and family members, the understanding and long-term commitment have increased significantly.

Some advice Holland would give to new facilitators is to keep training volunteers regularly – not just as a session approaches. She said, “We have found that people want to volunteer, but the long-term commitment is hard for most people.” One volunteer has even presented at local churches and civic organizations to spread the word about the program and connect the Center to families.

Holland says some things she has learned through her time being a facilitator are that glitter is forever and ketchup bottles are the best way to store acrylic paint. She also commented on how they were nervous about the noise level in the room, but found that “the volunteers and artists create a bubble through their closeness so noise doesn’t seem to bother anyone.”

One of their most successful projects was the Leaf Printing 4 as the artists felt happy and excited to touch the leaves and use it in their work.

Here are a few quotes from artists at the OMA center:

“I didn’t know I could do this! I may never do it again, but it’s nice to know I can!

“Who thinks up these crazy things?”

I’m loving my art class. I’m just loving it!”

In the coming months, Glen Allen will train volunteers from local high schools for the summer sessions. They are also partnering with another local OMA facilitator, Tina Lucas, at Randolph Macon College’s nursing department this fall for nursing students to deepen their gerontology studies.

The staff at Glen Allen have a vision of hosting the OMA Center five days a week, year-round!

Congratulations to Glen Allen Cultural Arts on the success of their program!

Learn more about Glen Allen Cultural Arts in these news stories:

Glen Allen arts program helps seniors with dementia get creative, open their minds

How this art class is helping people living with dementia and their loved ones

Art program helps adults with dementia broaden their world

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Krysta Peterson

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