Communitarian Spotlight: The Memory Maker Project

The first thing that comes across when you meet Kim Evanoski and Christina Muscatello is their chemistry. Kim and Christina are the co-founders of The Memory Maker Project, a new grassroots non-profit that provides cultural access programs for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss within the 607-area-code region. Professional collaboration is often making the best of a given situation, but these collaborators seem to have a language of their own, communicating seamlessly as they bounce between each other. Their enthusiasm, for what they do and whom they do it for, makes for a true communitarian team!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the team behind the Memory Maker Project to discuss the program’s evolution and future goals. This dynamic duo began working together as a result of the Care Management Summit at Binghamton University in 2014. Evanoski worked on the development of the summit, a collaborative project with CCPA Dean Laura Bronstein and hosted by the University. At the Summit, community members and healthcare professionals worked together to identify both areas of high need and local assets to develop innovative, high impact quality care. Muscatello was among the attendees and the two hit it off.

After discussing their individual passions and ways they envisioned making an impact on the community where they were both born and raised, the pair would soon collaborate to develop The Memory Maker Project. The Memory Maker was warmly received by our large community region as well as was recently accepted as a project of the Center for Transformative Action, an affiliate of Cornell University, giving them now non-profit status.

They make culture accessible to those with memory loss by collaborating with local cultural organizations, care communities and families to offer experiences that everyone can enjoy.  Programs are especially designed for people living with memory loss but inclusive and fun for all. Some collaborating organizations include Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts, KAPOW! Art Now!  The Kitchen Theatre, Vestal Museum, West End Gallery (in Corning), WSKG, Roberson Museum, River Read Books, The Art Mission, Opera Ithaca and others. This is a fast growing list as they progress and develop.
We all crave fun down time and creative expression, regardless of what stage we are at in life. Instead of focusing on a diagnosis, The Memory Maker Project focuses on the experience. If you attend a Memory Maker Project event, you will notice that they never talk about their organization or memory loss. That is because the experience–whether a visit to the theater, making art, or a gallery tour–focuses on having an enjoyable cultural experience that is in a comfortable and safe environment designed for all participants.   Any funding opportunities, partnerships, or discussions about memory loss are cultivated behind the scenes.

Muscatello is an art teacher by trade. She has an undergraduate degree in cultural history from Binghamton University and Masters of Education from Lesley University in Integrated Teaching Through the Arts, which brings together art therapy, community arts, and modern approaches to art education. She was a one-on-one care partner for a family friend living with Alzheimer’s throughout college and worked for ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer’s in Boston after graduating from Lesley. Much of her inspiration comes from her experiences working for ARTZ.  The Memory Maker Project is a collision of her passions, background and strengths.

Evanoski is a Dementia Certified Social Worker and the owner of Care Manage for All LLC, a local care management company that serves 7-counties across the Central Region and has supported the development of The Memory Maker Project. Evanoski is Adjunct Faculty at Binghamton University and Keuka College with specializations in gerontology, palliative and disability care.  During her earlier years, she participated in the arts as a college student and has always encouraged families to consider art for their self-care as a natural part of care management plans. In the past, she also was a museum educator, an experience that has impacted her understanding of cultural access and inspires her work with The Memory Maker Project.

Kim and Christina are excited to see how the regional community will embrace The Memory Maker Project through its collaborative partnership design and inclusiveness for every community member and visitor alike!  As a truly interdisciplinary program, it has the capability of bringing a high impact service learning opportunity to Binghamton University students as interns and researchers from the School of Education, Human Development, Nursing, Psychology, Public Administration, and Social Work Departments, just to name a few. If you would like to learn more about The Memory Maker Project, visit the website at http://www.memorymakerproject.org or contact us at 607-240-6204.To help fund The Project, send checks to The Memory Maker Project, 213 N. Tioga St #312 Ithaca NY 14851. Checks can be made payable to the Center for Transformative Action with “fbo The Memory Maker Project” in the memo line.

To contact Christina e-mail her at Christina@memorymakerproject.org.
To contact Kim, e-mail her at Kim@memorymakerproject.org.

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