Four years ago, a conversation with Lisa Garlock and Heidi Bardot from The George Washington University’s Art Therapy Program helped inform my thinking on a new initiative for the museum. They introduced me to Iona’s Wellness & Arts Center, and since then Iona has become a key partner in our programs for older adults. Given GWU’s role in the origins of the program, I was thrilled when Lisa proposed to install our Creative Aging exhibition at the art gallery on campus. So if you didn’t get a chance to catch the display here last fall, head over to the Alexandria Graduate Education Center where it is on view through late August.
I’ve been working on the museum’s Creative Aging program for over a year now, and to celebrate the current exhibition, the Phillips hosted a reception this past weekend for friends, families, and artists whose work is on view.
Over 100 visitors attended the reception, and what resonated most for me was the sense of pride many of the artists and families felt about seeing the artworks on view. One artist stated, “Thank you everyone for celebrating with us our artwork. It gives encouragement to make other works of art.” Another family member said, “We are so moved by this beautiful exhibit and the wonderful work. Thank you!”
But, I think one my favorite remarks written in the comment book said, “In line color and spirit—imagination lives at all ages.” My colleague at Iona, art therapist Jackie McGeehan, made this video to encapsulate the energy, ideas, and process behind the display. Have a look, and let us know what you think!
Last month, I had the pleasure of observing a meeting in the galleries by individuals in an art therapy pilot program presented by the Phillips and Iona’s Wellness & Arts Center. This program offers older adults (many of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementia), along with their families and caregivers, the opportunity to connect with each other through guided conversations about art at the Phillips. These individuals then continue processing their responses in the art therapy studio at Iona. Many of original artworks created there are now on view at the museum in Creative Aging at The Phillips Collection through Nov. 30 for Arts + Healthcare month.
When I entered the Phillips parlors where this particular session was to take place, my colleague Brooke Rosenblatt (who created this program with Iona’s art therapist Jackie McGeehan) was leading a discussion about Ernest Lawson’s Approaching Storm (a prescient choice, well before any of us were aware that Hurricane Sandy was on its way.) While Lawson shows a stormy darkness encroaching on trees and pond beneath a churning cloudy sky, the individuals in the room were focused on something else–a small house, bathed in light, at the center of the canvas. One person noted repeatedly how lovingly the work was painted and others commented, in different ways, on the warmth and hominess radiating from this central point in the picture. Brooke asked the group to imagine that they had painted this work and could rename it anything they chose. A consensus was quickly reached for a decidedly optimistic revision–the work would be called House in Sunshine, House in Sunlight, or some variation on the theme.
Smithsonian‘s “Collage of Arts and Sciences” blogger Megan Gambino attended the same session, and you can read her perspective on the program (and scroll through plenty of pictures) in this article published November 7.
Cecilia Wichmann, Publicity and Marketing Manager