Arts Fusion

Organization Associated with Program
Alzheimer's Association Central and Western Virginia Chapter
1160 Pepsi Place, Suite 306
Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

Arts Fusion is a comprehensive program offering a variety of creative and cultural opportunities for those affected by memory loss in the Alzheimer’s Association Central and Western Virginia Chapter area. Arts Fusion promotes creativity and improved quality of life at all stages of dementia through expressive and healing arts activities in its Early Stage and Memory Care Programs. For persons with dementia living at home, the Arts Fusion Early Stage Program in partnership with local arts institutions provides art museum and gallery visits, nature walks, and opportunities to attend symphony and dramatic arts rehearsals. For those in long-term care facilities, the Arts Fusion Memory Care Program provides art sessions led by trained specialists, integrating various art forms including visual art, music, dance, yoga, poetry, massage therapy, and aromatherapy. Both programs rely on a diverse, multi-sensory, and interdisciplinary approach which opens pathways to expression and communication to people of various backgrounds and at all stages of dementia. Recognizing the challenges of caring for persons with terminal illness, the Arts Fusion team also extends arts offerings to caregivers and family members of those with memory loss as a way to reduce stress and reestablish connections with their loved ones and the community. In addition, Arts Fusion supports intergenerational programming and empowers persons with dementia and caregivers through volunteer and advocacy opportunities. During the two years since Arts Fusion began, the program has served over 2,800 persons with dementia.

Program History

Arts Fusion grew from a one-year pilot program in which the Alzheimer’s Association of Central and Western Virginia received support from the blue moon fund to provide art-making sessions at several Charlottesville memory care facilities and partnered with the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia to offer specialized art-viewing tours for persons with dementia and their caregivers. Because of the success of the pilot program, the Association received additional funding to expand the program to include a variety of art genres in addition to visual art and to reach the other regions in the Chapter. Thus Arts Fusion was born. Through creative and healing arts programs throughout the Chapter, Arts Fusion supports the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association “to enhance care and support for individuals, their families, and caregivers affected by Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.”

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Staff members and the partner organization conduct multiple evaluations ongoing throughout the duration of the programs. These evaluations consist of interviews, individual assessments, attendance numbers, photographs, and video recordings documenting participant interests and level of engagement. Evaluations also determine the most effective arts sessions to highlight as examples in training materials and workshops. 

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

For a program that spans such a large geographic region, maintaining adequate contact with arts specialists and partner organizations throughout the Chapter has been a challenge. The Chapter developed a “Specialist Resource” online which is accessible to all Specialists and provides program updates, photographs, and practical materials such as evaluation forms, supply inventory, and sample arts sessions. The Arts Fusion Director also supports staff throughout the Chapter by maintaining phone contact with program partners and visiting each region to observe and consult with them on a regular basis. Additionally, reaching out to arts organizations that may not be directly related to the program has led to fruitful collaborations and securing valuable resources. For example, the National Endowment for the Humanities benefited Arts Fusion by donating several sets of Picturing America prints, which have proven invaluable to the art-viewing component of the program.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Attending a Performance, Participate in a Workshop
Arts Discipline: Dance, Literature, Museums, Music, Musical Theater, Theater, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education
Target Audience: Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities
Program Setting: Adult Day Care, Arts Organization, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Program Service Area: Rural, Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Promising Practices