Building Empathy Through the Arts

Thomas Jefferson University



Carl D., who is living with dementia, comforts Nadine F., the care partner of another participant, during a creative workshop led by artist Teya Sepinuck. Photo by Raymond W. Holman, Jr.


First-year Jefferson medical student Anji R. and mentors Mike S. and Mary Anne S. at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Photo by Jonas Denzel and Christian Hays.


First-year Jefferson medical student Jui D. and mentor Norm W. at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Photo by Jonas Denzel and Christian Hays.


Thomas Jefferson University, established in 1824. Photo courtesy of Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services.

Thomas Jefferson University’s Building Empathy Through the Arts will join artists, medical students, and people living with dementia and their caregivers in a creative process of empathy-building, storytelling, and healing that will culminate in a new performance work. The project will further Jefferson’s development of creative pedagogy at the intersection of art, healthcare, and wellness. Building Empathy Through the Arts will be created in collaboration with Teya Sepinuck, founder and artistic director of Theater of Witness, which produces testimonial performances, and Susan Shifrin, founder of ARTZ Philadelphia, which provides art-making and conversation programs for people with dementia and their caregivers. The program will enlist approximately 80 patients and caregivers as mentors to students, who will engage in a series of arts-based listening and creative process circles that will foster conversation about the lived experience of dementia and caregiving. Several student-mentor pairs will continue working with Sepinuck to develop autobiographical performances that will lay the foundation for a larger-scale performance work exploring what it means to heal and be healed.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.