Dallas-based Nonprofit Takes Art Museum Experience On the Road

art

FOR LOVE & ART BRINGS GALLERY EXPERIENCE TO PEOPLE UNABLE TO VISIT MUSEUMS


A plain, winding corridor at Ashford Hall nursing home opens into a large cafeteria-like room with tables, chairs, and a big sunny window. In the corner, Mark Lombard, founder of For Love & Art, is setting up a slideshow on the TV.

The room steadily fills with residents — many are in wheelchairs; some have breathing tubes on their noses or are wearing wool hats to keep their heads warm.

“For Love & Art will enrich your soul,” Lombard tells the assembled crowd. “If you don’t want your soul enriched, you can leave now.”

No one leaves, so he begins clicking through digital photographs of museum artworks. Today’s slideshow comes from the Clark Art collection.

As each new painting fills the screen, Lombard points out interesting features of the art and things that mean something to him. Colors, shapes, hidden details, and emotion. He talks about what the artists might have been feeling, and encourages the gathered group to share any thoughts or memories the art may spark.

When Monet’s The Cliffs at Etretat pops up on the screen, the gathered group collectively draws a breath.

ART HAS POWER AS A ‘THERAPEUTIC TOOL’

Before he founded For Love & Art, Lombard visited hospice centers as a volunteer. As an art lover, he wanted to share the beauty of art galleries with the people he visited.

When he began bringing postcards of famous works to hospices, he remembers how one woman was so taken by William Merritt Chase’s Idle Hours that she pointed to the painting and said, “You know, Mark, I wish I was right there.”

“I swear she wasn’t in Grand Prairie anymore,” Lombard said of the memory. “She wasn’t worried about anything. She was quietly idling away the hours by the lake. That is the art experience being made real.”

Lombard realized the power of art as a therapeutic tool, as an experience in beauty, and as a way to engage with people.

He launched For Love & Art in 2010, and began visiting museums to explain his idea. He sought to create art books that would feature art galleries’ collections. That way, volunteers, careworkers, and even Lombard himself could share art galleries’ beautiful images with the sick, elderly, and immobile.

Anyone who couldn’t get to a gallery, Lombard reasoned, could have the gallery brought to them.

NONPROFIT PARTNERS WITH ART MUSEUMS

He began with the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University, then went to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Currently, For Love & Art has 19 partner museums and has endowed more than 270 art books around the country.

“We want to generate a renaissance in art from a therapeutic point of view.” -Mark Lombard

“We want to generate a renaissance in art from a therapeutic point of view,” Lombard said. “We’re empowering caregivers to love people in creative and transformative ways. The context is love.”

Back at Ashford Hall, Lombard continues to click through the photos of paintings. The people in the room engage deeper with each click, calling out their thoughts and memories and arguing over what things look like to them.

When a Degas painting pops up, one resident tells the group that he took ballet when he was young. A man in a red arm chair argues with the lady behind him about whether a pastoral landscape by George Inness depicts dawn or dusk.

The people seem particularly moved by a painting of a man sitting and talking to his elderly mother. They agree that moments like that are some of the most wonderful things about life.

In the end, the residents of Ashford Hall elect Mary Cassatt’s Woman with Baby is their very favorite piece. Lombard isn’t surprised. It’s a rich, happy scene between a mother and child, and love — the organization’s core mission — emanates from the painting.

“Some might not know what to say to people in a nursing home, but if you have 2,000 beautiful paintings in your hand, you’re never at a loss for words.” -Mark Lombard

For Love & Art seeks businesses to sponsor nursing homes and hospices in their community. The nonprofit also accepts donations of any amount, and is always looking for volunteers to come and help out.

“Some might not know what to say to people in a nursing home,” Lombard said. “But if you have 2,000 beautiful paintings in your hand, you’re never at a loss for words.”


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