The Phillips Collection has forged an innovative partnership with the District’s award-winning Iona’s Wellness & Arts Center to improve the lives of people with memory impairment and physical challenges. Original artwork created by these individuals is featured in Creative Aging, an exhibition on view at the Phillips during National Arts and Health Month.
Offering an unorthodox mix of museum education and art therapy, the program invites older adults, along with their families and caregivers, to enter the world of Renoir, van Gogh, Picasso, and others, and then return to Iona where they use the creative process of making art to enhance their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Over the last year, 30 individuals and 10 family members or caregivers participated in a pilot program at the Phillips and Iona. Sessions take place monthly, alternating between the museum’s galleries and Iona so that individuals with a range of mobility can participate. Using the artwork as visual stimulus, individuals engage in conversations with museum education professionals and each other that help trigger thoughts and feelings, inspiring them to make connections and access personal experiences and long-term memories.
The Phillips and Iona program integrates the expertise of a certified art therapist both in the galleries and in hands-on work in an art therapy studio. At Iona, individuals create artworks that reflect and develop themes identified during the conversations at the Phillips. The artwork each individual creates becomes a tangible and personal memento of the entire process, and in many cases a point of pride.