Through a series of acts of kindness, this hospice volunteer stumbled on an innovative method of simultaneously enhancing the quality of life for the aged, the infirm, those with end-of-life issues and similar others, while permanently honoring the memory of a loved one with an honor legacy of exceptional beauty.
At the grand age of 90, my beloved Miss Billie started to lose strength in her legs and was given a series of exercises to build up her stamina. Given that she was somewhat uninspired by that daunting task, I gave her an incentive to engage in her daily rigor: “Come on, Miss Billie, if you build up your leg strength, I’ll take you to the museum.” Miss Billie’s love for art and the prospect of once again visiting her beloved Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth was carrot enough for her to complete her physical regimen for days and eventually weeks on end.
But, as we all know, sometimes things just don’t turn out. Try as she might, Miss Billie would never regain sufficient strength to allow for our glorious expedition. So, like the mountain to the Prophet, I started bringing the Kimbell to her – with each visit, I would bring a beautiful souvenir postcard of a selected masterpiece to her nursing home.
And how she would delight in them! Her eyes would sparkle and dance as she held each up to her tired eyes and in that moment, she would be young again! In that moment, she would recapture her beauty and vigor, her freshness and sense of romance and adventure, and revel in the magic of life itself! Even if just for a little while, Miss Billie was no longer in her home, but rather along the shore of an impressionist lake, idling away the time with her mother and sisters in a cool summer breeze….
Such has the power of art. It’s impact on the viewer flows beyond mere understanding – some call it “the gateway to the eternal,” and others “food for the soul.” It causes an experience that transcends one’s current circumstances, and rejuvenates the spirit. Humanitarian physician Albert Schweitzer once said, “The tragedy in life is not that we die; it’s what dies inside us while we are still alive.” Could art have the power to restore these ethereal wounds?
We compiled quite an artbook, Miss Billie and I, and somewhere along the way it occurred to me that bringing the art experience to seniors and others with mobility limitations was indeed an idea whose time has come. Thus, The For Love & Art Project was born.
But how was this to be done? I hoped to consult with an expert in the field, and wrote, rather scattershot, a general letter of inquiry to all of the museums in the Metroplex. Art educator and sterling human being Katherine Moloney at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art invited me in for a chat. Perhaps digital photo books were the perfect vehicles to show off colorful images of masterpieces? Yes, that would work! Furthermore, the Carter would be willing to “lend” works from their collection to our project as part of their community outreach goals. Awesome! This simple meeting determined the method of delivery, and provided featured content, for For Love & Art.
On the way home, I stopped at The Kimbell to share about our project. Much to my surprise, they immediately agreed to have selected works from their collection be part of For Love & Art! The Dallas Museum of Art followed suit (and contributed immensely to our very existence; it was they, after all, who gave us special permission to use “Lise in a White Shawl,” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, from The Reves Collection, as our covergirl painting), and The Meadows Museum at SMU also saw great merit and contributed items from their permanent collection to reach our dear and often forgotten audience.
I didn’t get much sleep the evening The National Gallery of Art at The Smithsonian endorsed For Love & Art – we were going national! The Getty in Los Angeles jumped on board, and was followed by The Art Institute of Chicago and The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. The initial phase of The For Love & Art Project was completed with the welcomed and “almost too much to ask for” participation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City!
Nine awesome museums and nearly one-thousand beautiful, vibrant, and uplifting images could now be shared with clientele no longer able to visit! We were given permission to represent these institutions as part of their community outreach programs, at once an enormous privilege – and an enormous responsibility! Still, museum participation was only one leg of For Love and Art’s emerging triangle: Beneficiaries (recipient facilities) and Philanthropy (talent and money) would complete the triad.
Simultaneous with the acquisition of rights reproduction from museums, wonderful people joined in our mission to make it real in the world. The For Love & Art Project was warmly “adopted” by The Touching Our World Foundation, a 501(c)3 charity that supports creative projects in service of community, under the direction of its cheery founder, Paula Reed. Judith Pickering, The Volunteer Coordinator at the Community Hospice of Texas in Fort Worth, started identifying hospices that would be willing to accept the digital ArtBooks and implement their use into their curriculum. And a wonderful band of volunteers, committed that the mission of For Love & Art flourish and thrive, pooled in Dallas to provide their talents and passion.
Donors, inspired to endow ArtBooks to hospices, hospitals, retirement homes, and other venues, pledged money to our mission; some endowed a fraction-of-an-ArtBook and others endowed a baker’s dozen!
A short eighty days after the inception of For Love & Art, on October 30, 2010, an inaugural event commenced at the Dallas Museum of Art’s prestigious Horchow Auditorium, at which time a dozen ArtBooks were distributed to Metroplex hospices. A warm welcome by Paula Reed was followed by its keynote speakers: Myself (speaking on the genesis of For Love & Art), Judith Pickering (the spirit of hospice volunteering), Katherine Moloney (the power of art) and legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar (the art of philanthropy). Even Miss Billie, the woman whose glad reactions to the power of art started it all, was not only in attendance, but shared the stage and spoke to the gathering, speaking words of wisdom only earned by living a lifetime and getting a standing ovation for her efforts (Yes! She finally made it to the museum!). This wonderful event featured musical interludes and even a classical ballet. Indeed, For Love & Art was launched into the world with dignity and panache in triumphant celebration!
Since that time, For Love & Art has distributed about fifty ArtBooks across the country, not just in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, but in Tampa, Philadelphia, Wilmington, New Jersey, Vermont, Lancaster County, PA, Louisville, KY, and Washington, DC. But for every ArtBook we place, we seem to field two additional requests for placement – we currently have over 100 worthy facilities asking for ArtBooks just in the Metroplex alone! Our current goal is to place at least two ArtBooks in each qualifying facility (depending on census) across the country, and then around the world!
ArtBooks quickly evolved into “Honor Legacies;” that is, each is boldly attributed to a designated facility along with a dedication of love, honor, and memory to a donor’s chosen other. For example, “The Hospice of Lancaster County” has been endowed with an ArtBook “In Memory of Margaret S. Patterson” that was sponsored by her children. Self-funding facilites often pay tribute to their volunteers (“In Honor of Volunteer Spirit”) and businesses are able to contribute to their communities while garnering inestimable goodwill; e.g., “Compliments of the Savani Dental Group.”
We respectfully invite you to bring the For Love & Art Project into your community. You may wish to endow an ArtBook as a single Honor Legacy, or start an Honor Legacy Fund through which multiple ArtBooks are placed. Perhaps you would like to volunteer for our group and simply promote our mission through FaceBook and other social media. To explore these and other opportunities, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we will honor loved ones while gladdening hearts and repairing broken spirits through the wonderful and majestic power of art!