Art & Music Therapy

Art and music are more than simply pleasant diversions. Whether viewing, listening, or creating, participation in the arts can alleviate many problems for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their caregivers. Read on to discover the many benefits of art therapy and learn how to incorporate it into your caring role.

Art & Alzheimer’s Knoxville

Art Therapy

Music Therapy


Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville

Alzheimer’s Tennessee is excited to be part of Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville, an art therapy event modeled after related art education programs, such as Meet Me at MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City was one of the first galleries to create programs specifically catered to the needs of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Their program, like Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville, consists of trained art educators who seek to engage participants in lively dialogue through conversational analysis of art in collections and exhibitions.

Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville wants to give individuals living with disease such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias an opportunity to interact with art by providing a diverse set of cultural programming and art entertainment designed for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their families. These programs will foster positive interactions with art and others, enhancing self-expression and self-esteem through upbeat discussion for the participants.

We’ll meet you at the Knoxville Museum of Art every month! Our main program will consist of an art educator sharing pieces of art in order to create an engaging and comfortable environment to foster positive emotional expression and reflection. In the future, the program will expand to include film, different styles of dance, music, and hands-on art. Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville is partnering with Alzheimer’s Tennessee and the Knoxville Museum of Art to provide a safe and healthy environment for these programs. Support is also provided by the Pat Summitt Foundation and Clayton Center for the Arts.

The idea of Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville came to Brianna Rader, a senior at the University of Tennessee, who, having heard good things about the Meet Me at the MoMA event in New York, approached friends Kolt Free and later Margaret Smith to collaborate with her on bringing something similar to Knoxville. Brianna studies medical humanities with hopes of attending medical school pursuing an M.D. and a Masters of Public Health. Kolt, a fellow College Scholar studying Therapeutic Arts, intends to get a PhD in clinical psychology focused on incorporating the arts into traditional therapy practices. Margaret, a Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology major with a Spanish minor, intends to attend medical school focusing on the treatment of urban or underserved populations. All three have a passion for the arts, whether it be studio art, film, theatre, or music, and are excited about the opportunity to share these expressive outlets with others.

For more about the Arts & Alzheimer’s Knoxville schedule including event descriptions, dates, and times, please contact anyone below or one of our Community Partners.


Brianna Rader kma

Margaret Smith coleneuroscience

Kolt Free 
865-803-9609  claytoncenter

Nichole Fazio-Veigel
Art Educator patsummittfoundation


Art Therapy



How Does it Help?

  • Art allows persons whose language skills have been impaired to express themselves in a different, non-verbal way.
  • Art therapy helps to improve concentration and emphasizes abilities that are still available and can be developed, rather than focusing on those abilities that have been lost.
  • Art therapy can bring a caregiver and a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease closer together. When other methods of contact become difficult, art therapy reminds the caregiver that the person is still there.
  • It can help individuals recover the use of motor skills.
  • Both viewing and creating art can promote relaxation, improve mood, and decrease problematic behaviors.

from the International Art Therapy Organization

Tips for Effective Art Therapy

  • Keep it simple. Painting and sculpting are activities most individuals with dementia can accomplish.
  • Evoke memories.  Suggest drawing images that are familiar or can evoke childhood memories.
  • Play it safe. Only use materials that would be harmless if swallowed.
  • Select stimulating materials. Use brightly colored paints and materials with a variety of textures, such as yarn, papier-mache, and fabric pieces.
  • Create a comfortable setting. See the music therapy section on this page for ideas on using music to promote a positive environment.
  • Aim for no-failure activities, and give compliments to keep individuals focused and positive.
  • Talk about the artwork. Open-ended questions (not yes-or-no) will tap into memories, spark conversations, and encourage socialization.
  • Start a gallery. Hanging up artwork, whether on the refrigerator of your home or the hallway of a long-term care facility, offers more opportunities for socialization and reminiscence.

from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America; contributed by Elizabeth Cockey


Music Therapy



How Does it Help?

  • Many people with neurological damage have learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music.
  • Clinical studies have shown that familiar and likable music has reduced depression and agitation; increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability; and decreased problem behaviors.
  • Active music therapy (i.e., playing instruments rather than listening to music) engages persons with dementia in play and helps recover motor skills.

from A Place for Mom

Tips for Effective Music Therapy

Early Stage:

  • Go out dancing or dance in the house.
  • Listen to music that the person liked in the past.
  • Attend concerts, giving consideration to endurance and temperament.
  • Encourage an individual who played an instrument to try it again.
  • Compile a musical history of favorite recordings.


Early and Middle Stages:

  • Use song sheets or a karaoke machine so the individual can sing along with old-time favorites.


Middle Stage:

  • Play music or sing as the individual is walking to improve balance or gait.
  • Use background music to enhance mood.
  • Opt for relaxing music to reduce sundowning.


Late Stage:

  • Utilize the collection of old favorites that you made earlier.
  • Do sing-alongs with tunes sung by rote in that person’s generation.
  • Play soothing music to provide a sense of comfort.
  • Exercise to music.
  • Do drumming or other rhythm-based activities.

 from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America; contributed by Alicia Ann Clair


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East Tennessee Office:
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1459 Interstate Dr. Ste 211
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