Us­ing art to re­con­nect with pa­tients’ pasts

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

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.

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