Opening Minds Through Art

(This video was created by Aiven Davis)

The Claude Pepper Center brings Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) to Tallahassee, FL.

OMA is an award-winning, failure-free, intergenerational art-making program for people living with dementia. The program was originally developed by gerontologists at Scripps Gerontology Center (Miami University). OMA promotes autonomy and dignity, through opportunities for creative self-expression and social engagement for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

During the course of the program, student interns are trained by an OMA facilitator to learn about dementia, effective communication, and creative facilitation skills. The student interns, as creative facilitators, are paired with an older adult living with dementia (artists), and form close, one-on-one relationships with them. At the end of the program, an art exhibition will be held to celebrate the artist’s accomplishments and beautiful artwork, as well as spread awareness of memory care diseases to the community.

The Claude Pepper Center launched Opening Minds through Art in September 2023. The center’s program works with two different assisted living facilities in Tallahassee to bring weekly art sessions to people living with dementia. In total, OMA at FSU has trained 27 undergraduates from Sociology, Public Health, and Psychology, 10 FSU Law Students (Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic) and one FSU Med student.

“OMA builds bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art.”

Research shows the following benefits to:

People living with dementia:

  • Compared to other activities, OMA provides:
  • More expressions of pleasure,
  • Greater engagement,
  • Better overall well-being

Student Interns

  • Increased positive attitudes and comfort level towards people living with dementia
  • Increased affection, enthusiasm, and sense of kinship toward people living with dementia


The OMA Mission

The OMA mission is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art, through providing meaningful social engagement between people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and college student interns or volunteers. OMA’s overarching goal is to promote the well-being of people living with dementia by providing and facilitating art activities that provide positive emotion, relationship, meaningfulness and accomplishment (based on Martin Seligman’s well-being theory).

Senator Pepper’s mission was to highlight the value of our community’s aging population and see them as living treasures, which they are. In line with his vision, OMA employs a person-centered approach that capitalizes on the elder’s strengths and abilities rather than what they are no longer able to do. OMA recognizes that people living with dementia can grow and learn, use and appreciate fine art references, and be challenged in new ways. 

Sen. Claude Pepper believed, as do we, that these opportunities should not be isolated to only those that can afford them but be made accessible to all of the community.  Therefore, it is also our mission to expand this program to our broader community here in the Florida panhandle as well as become an OMA training facility for the state of Florida.  At the Claude Pepper Center, we believe in the benefits for all involved and are committed to making this a reality across the state of Florida and beyond.

If you are interested in learning more about OMA: A Claude Pepper Center program, please contact:

Suzanne Monroe Smith, OMA Facilitator