Volunteer for the Meet Me at UMMA Memory Loss Program

Meet Me at UMMAThe University of Michigan Museum of Art seeks volunteers for Meet Me at UMMA, a rewarding, innovative program serving people with memory loss. The National Endowment for the Arts has funded UMMA to expand this program. UMMA is seeking people—whether students, professionals or care partners—who are interested in joining a creative community serving a vital need. 

Meet Me uses a multi-sensory approach including visual art, music, storytelling, and more to offer engaging and enjoyable museum experiences for people living with memory loss and their families and care partners. 

After applying you will be contacted by a member of our team who will explain the next steps to you, as well as answer any questions that you may have.

Please note: University of Michigan policy mandates that all volunteers complete a background check.

Interested in joining us? Apply today!

For more information contact Briannon English at briannon@umich.edu or 734.764.1917.

Learn More

Meet Me at UMMA presents guided gallery experiences for people with memory loss using a multi-sensory approach that gives guests an opportunity to "bring their senses alive" through visual art. Tours are often complemented by music, movement, storytelling, humor, tactile props, and hands-on activities. Groups are small, with enough volunteers to provide one-one interaction as needed. The focus is on engagement and joy rather than learning and information.

Meet Me at UMMA tours are designed to provide our visitors with a positive, engaging outing.  Our visitors come to the museum, some using walkers or wheelchairs, and progress safely and comfortably through the galleries. With care, thought, and planning, the museum gallery environment can be a stimulating and energizing place to connect with others and enjoy the moment.

Benefits to Volunteers
For people who like working on creative projects in a small group, the work of planning encounters with art that are not didactic, but instead are sensory and direct, is very satisfying. Adding touch, music, singing, and story amplifies the impact of the visual experience. 

As for the visit, one Meet Me Volunteer describes her experience: “the laughter and camaraderie we ALL feel, the breaking down and irrelevance of barriers as we all laugh and enjoy the art and each other is my reward.” The surprising insights and meaningful connections volunteers make with visitors, and the warm greetings from a repeat visitor who may not “remember” their last visit - but knows and feels the museum as a welcoming and interesting place - grant volunteers an invaluable and unique reward.

Benefits to Our Visitors
Our partners in organizations serving our visitors report immediate results such as better mood, better appetite, posture, and singing on the bus ride back. Visitors sometimes remember the visit or at least the positive feel of the visit. This is evident in eyes that light up when we greet then on the next visit. 

There is increasing research evidence that the arts contribute to the overall quality of life for people with memory loss, bringing meaning and satisfaction to visitors and volunteers, as well as those that care for them. When family members visit the Museum with the Friday groups, they often express appreciation for something they can do with their loved one that is fun for both of them. 

Meet Me at UMMA serves persons with memory loss along the continuum of memory loss, some of whom live at home and visit with their specialized day program and others who live in and visit with a group from their residential program.
We give tours on Tuesdays and Fridays in two seasons, spring (roughly late March through early June) and fall (late September through early December). The Tuesday group hosts visitors three times per month and serves people with early to mid-stage memory loss. Staff members often accompany the group. The Friday group hosts visitors twice a month and serves persons from residential settings whose memory loss has further progressed. Family members are invited to participate with their loved ones.

Training will take place on four successive Tuesday evenings from 6/6:30 to 8/8:30 p.m.: April 10 and 24, and May 8 and 22, 2018. Tuesday sessions will include active discussion and demonstrations in both gallery and classroom setting. 

Volunteers will also learn by doing through observing and helping with a total of four tours on either Tuesday afternoons 1:15-3 p.m., or Friday afternoons 2-3 p.m.

Volunteers in training will join an active, creative learning community committed to providing engaging museum experiences for visitors with memory loss along with their caregivers and family members. Leaders for training will include Education staff, experienced Meet Me docents, and special guests with expertise in memory loss and/or the arts.

In addition to mentored learning and support from our docents and staff, volunteers will have access to resources including readings, online articles, and teaching materials. Digital archives of tour outlines on the UMMA Exchange site will provide easy access to information about specific works of art and engagement strategies.

For training time commitment for Spring 2018, please see above: Tell me more about training.

As a volunteer, you are asked to commit to working with either the Tuesday or Friday afternoon team three to four times during the training (semester), and to commit to three-four touring sessions either Tuesday or Friday for fall 2018 and spring 2019 (does not have to be the same day for each semester). By on-going mentored learning within the team, you will develop knowledge and experience to assist with tours.

Then, if you wish to do so, you will have opportunities to make further contributions to planning and implementing these fun and lively encounters with art. The Meet Me program is sufficiently flexible for each person to develop and contribute via their skills and interests without feeling pressure to be an art expert.

Persons who enjoy and are successful as “Meet Me” volunteers...

  • Have an interest in and aptitude for engaging with older people and/or those living with disabilities;
  • Are comfortable with informal interactions rather than formal presentations;
  • Can be flexible in response to group and individual reactions/interests;
  • Are comfortable with an orientation toward experiential learning that emphasizes the imagination rather than facts;
  • Embrace a belief in the power and magic of art  (visual, musical, theatrical) and a passion to share this with others.

The role of new volunteers within the Meet Me program will progress and expand as your comfort with visitors and knowledge grows. There will be opportunities to observe tours, to participate in planning them and eventually to share presentations. Mentoring by established docents, one-on-one, will be a key learning method. 

Initially, the art portions of tours will be the responsibility of trained docents. However, the Meet Me program is sufficiently flexible for each person to develop and contribute via their skills and interests to the planning and implementation of the program.

National Endowment for the Arts

Interested in Volunteering?

Apply today!