T he entire experience of going to an art museum and the joy that accompanies it is often taken for granted. People with limited mobility now have the opportunity to experience liberation through art.
The For Love and Art Project is a non-profit organization founded in August 2010 that is devoted to bringing the art experience to people with limited mobility. Mark Lombard, President and Founder of For Love and Art, believes that there is something very powerful about art because “people actually enjoy the art experience, they can liberate themselves from their current circumstances.”
Lombard’s idea to bring art to patients with limited mobility came after his experience with a hospice patient named Mrs. Billie at the center where he volunteered. Mrs. Billie loved art and going to the museums but once she started to lose strength in her legs, she was no longer able to make the trip. At that point, Lombard began bringing pieces of the museum, in the form of gift shop postcards, to Mrs. Billie. Lombard realized how “their power and beauty created a blessed respite from worldly trials and tribulations.”
Lombard was inspired by this experience and founded the For Love and Art Project in honor of Mrs. Billie. Today, FLAA volunteers bring digital photo albums called ArtBooks which feature works from various museums. For Love and Art has received permission from art museums across the United States, including The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University and The Dallas Museum of Art, to feature digital recreations of pieces from their collections in the digital ArtBooks.
In less than two years, Lombard has turned his dream of spreading love and art into a reality. For Love and Art is making a global transition not only by seeking permission to art collections from foreign museums but also by sending the first ArtBook to Africa. University of Sierra Leon student Thomas Sengay learned of the For Love and Art Project through the organization’s Facebook page and was impressed and intrigued by the project. He pledged to bring the project to Sierra Leon and raised the money necessary to send the first ArtBook to rural West Africa.
Currently there are 52 ArtBooks in hospices and assisted care centers around the United States and there are plans to expand the number of ArtBooks to 700 in the next year through donations. Recently, Lombard traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Rick Gillett, the Veterans Service Organization Liaison in the US Department of Veterans Affairs to show him an ArtBook and discuss the idea of incorporating the ArtBooks in the Veteran’s Hospitals around America. Gillett was optimistic about the project’s ability to serve the country’s veterans and a medical conference will be scheduled for March in order to conduct workshops on how to use the ArtBooks with patients.
The number of museums participating in the For Love and Art Project already includes The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The National Gallery of Art. This number continues to grow and as of recent The State Hermitage Museum and The National Gallery of Victoria have committed special collections to the organization.
According to Sara Hignite of the Registrar in The Meadows Museum at SMU, Meadows provided For Love and Art with images from artists including Velázquez, Goya, Murillo and Ribera. She believes that “Experiencing artwork and also creating artwork of their own allows hospice patients the opportunity to work through emotions and memories, thereby improving their quality of life.” Last winter, The Meadows Museum agreed to allow Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, through For Love and Art, to use its artwork images on its closed-circuit in-house televisions as a therapy for its patients and caregivers during chemotherapy.
The plan to expand the outreach of For Love and Art in the next year relies heavily on funding but, more importantly, the organization needs more volunteers to visit with patients and show them the liberation they can feel through looking at beautiful artwork, says Director of Volunteers Don Myers. He believes that this project is not about the intellectual stimulation that people can feel from looking at a prized piece of artwork but rather the feeling from the heart that one experiences when they look at something awe-inspiring.
Lombard retold the heartwarming story that a volunteer named Jeremy from the Dallas VA Medical Center sent him about how through the beauty of art, he was able to reach into the soul of cranky old man named Oscar. Jeremy said that he used to visit Oscar regularly and was always greeted by unkind words and a sour attitude. When the volunteer approached the old man with the idea of looking at an ArtBook, he said, “I don’t want to see no friggin’ pictures.” The volunteer proceeded despite the negative response and showed him a simple painting from a museum in Washington that neither of them had seen before. He told Lombard that the old man stared at the painting for a minute and his facial expression softened abruptly and tears started sliding down the old man’s cheeks. Jeremy told Lombard that he had no idea what happened to Oscar that day but ever since, Oscar has been a lot more welcoming and eager to see the beauty that art can express.
More information about the project can be found at http://www.forloveandart.org/.
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