Using art to reconnect with patients’ pasts
Artful meditation is the goal of a pilot program at the National Gallery of Art that helps seniors with memory loss reconnect with their past.
“Just Us at the National Gallery of Art” is a biweekly guided tour that leads people with memory loss and their caregivers through an intensive meditation on a few paintings in the gallery in Washington, D.C. The program was developed with the help of Carolyn Halpin-Healy, a New York City educator and arts administrator who trained the National Gallery staff.
Each session centers on a theme, such as family portraits or water scenes. “Topics that have a lot of entry points allow for a lot of exploration,” Lorena Bradford, the museum’s head of accessible programs, told the Washington Post. “We invite them to start looking and sharing their ideas, and that works for everybody.”
In one of the recent tours, they viewed “En route pour la peche,” an 1878 oil painting by John Singer Sargent of women and children walking on a beach in northern France. A World War II veteran who at 18 landed on the beaches of Normandy shortly after D-Day said Sargent’s painting “nearly resembled what I saw, not all the way, but 90% of the way.”
“Art brings up a lot of things,” Bradford told the Post. “Art connects people back to who they are.”
The pilot began in April and runs through June, after which the museum hopes to make the tours a permanent part of its programming.
The special program uses art to help reconnect those with memory loss with their past.