Art IS Therapy, on View at GWU

Installation of Creative Aging exhibition at GW's Alexandria campus. Photos: Margaret Collerd.

Installation of Creative Aging exhibition at The George Washington University. Photos: Margaret Collerd.

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.

The Power of a Post-it

Comparison of how teachers (left) and visitors to our Creative Aging Reception (right) descibe art. Photos: Rachel Goldberg

What is art? An expression of human creativity…a window on the soul…a means to communicate an ideal?

My colleague Rachel Goldberg recently asked some of the teachers from the museum’s partner schools to write the answer this question on a post-it note as seen in the illustration above left. They described art as “anything you want it to be,” “expression,” “creativity,” “communication,” “thinking,” and “untrained magicians weaving tapestries of emotions.”

Inspired by Rachel’s project, we asked visitors to the Creative Aging reception to describe how they understand art (above right). While some of the answers like “expression,” and “creativity,” aligned with the teachers, I found it fascinating how many of these individuals connect art with well-being. They defined art as “hope,” “healing,” “to cure illness,” “happiness,” and “a simple gift.”

This project reminded me a lot of one I saw this summer in Barcelona. Then and now I am astounded by the power a simple post-it note can have to collect our thoughts and feelings.

What is art to you? If you’re feeling inspired, use the comments below to share your thoughts (sorry we can’t use post-it notes)!



Imagination Lives at All Ages

Family members celebrating the work of an Iona artist. Photo: James R. Brantley

Family members celebrating the work of an Iona artist. Photo: James R. Brantley

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!