Some of the works of Edgar Degas are on display in the Yale University Art Gallery until May, but a new addition to the gallery’s art therapy program is bringing slides of the exhibit to some people unable to see the works firsthand.
For four years, the “Giant Steps” program at the Yale University Art Gallery has advocated the use of art and music as therapy for the sick. A new addition to the program will bring comfort, in the form of art education, directly to patients from the Veterans Memorial Hospital in West Haven.
In the original “Giant Steps” program, patients come one day a week during the month of July to study a specific collection at the gallery. The patients then work with a staff artist to produce their own creations. The program also utilizes gallery tour guides who volunteer their time.
“It’s a therapy program for people who’ve suffered traumas from the service,” said Mary Kordak, the Jan and Frederick Mayer Curator of Education at the Yale University Art Gallery.
The program has recently expanded, and in the last two weeks, organizers of the program have brought the art directly to the patients in the hospital. Specifically, the program has brought slides of images from the “Edgar Degas: Defining the Modernist Edge” exhibit. The exhibit is currently on display through May at the gallery.
“This is the first year we’ve gone to see them at the hospital, and it’s been a fabulous success,” Kordak said.
People are often unaware that the gallery sponsors these types of programs, Kordak said.
“Most people think the Art Gallery’s education outreach programs are limited to school children, but that is far from the case,” Kordak said in an e-mail. “The Giant Steps Program based at the Veterans Memorial Hospital has provided us with another wonderful opportunity to collaborate with an institution that works with adults.”
The hospital is one of eight members of the VA New England Healthcare System, which serves over 300,000 veterans in Connecticut and southern New England.
Tracy Bergstrom, who works in the gallery’s education department and helped bring the works to the hospital, said the Degas exhibit fosters in depth discussion with the patients.
“The show is a wonderful one to talk about,” she said. “There are a lot of different styles and a lot of different psychological aspects to the works.”
She said the hands-on work the patients have had at the museum has helped them to appreciate the art more fully.
“The patients have a lot of art experience and so they’re familiar with the different styles,” she said. “They have been incredibly responsive.”
Bergstrom said over the course of a week, there are three different presentations for groups of approximately 25 patients.