Two visitors sharing a moment at the Phillips during our Creative Aging program. Photo: James R. Brantley
Everyone once in a while I see a photograph from one of our programs that stops me in my tracks. James R. Brantley recently took the image above during one of our Creative Aging programs with Iona. 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.
This photograph is a powerful reminder to me. It serves as a testament of how powerful art can be in creating shared and loving experiences.
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.
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)!