Fine arts student organization connects with memory-care residents through music, crafts

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Photo Credit: Joel Pereira | Daily Texan Staff

Epiphany, a fine arts student organization, performs music and creates arts and crafts to connect with residents dealing with memory loss at care homes.

Mia Orlandella, co-founder and director of external communications, said the founders’ experiences with their grandparents inspired the organization. Orlandella said music and visual arts stimulus has helped the founders’ grandparents with their memory and retention.

“My grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, randomly started spouting off a song that he remembered about a tree and related it to my grandmother,” German and finance sophomore Orlandella said. “This was a moment that was worth remembering because he tends to forget a lot. We want to create experiences like the one I had for other memory-care residents.”

Zoe Howard, co-founder and social media director, said they created Epiphany as part of a class assignment that asked students to design a nonprofit organization. She said their plan won funding to establish the nonprofit through Envision Austin Challenge, a UT liberal arts honors program competition.

“From the first time we went to the care home to meet the residents, we knew that this was something we wanted to do,” said Howard, an English and rhetoric and writing sophomore. 

Orlandella said Epiphany chooses to perform music the memory-care residents know and love so they can sing along. 

“We play classic songs like ‘Home on the Range,’ ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and anything by Frank Sinatra,” Orlandella said. “It really brings them back to their past and remember the good old days when they can all sing along together.”

Siddha Sannigrahi, co-founder and arts coordinator, said even if the residents do not participate in the activities, they seem to have just as much fun watching the interactions. 

“I really love the idea of using music and arts to build a community and using it to interact with the residents,” public health sophomore Sannigrahi said. “It gives us an opportunity to engage with a generation I personally haven’t engaged with in a long time.”

Sannigrahi said the residents enjoy their visits so much that they always have suggestions for future musical performances and activities.

“The residents get excited when we come perform because a lot of them have spent their life going to orchestra concerts and other musical performances,” said Sannigrahi. “Being able to bring that back to them in their own care home is wonderful, and they appreciate it.”