Arts Everyday Living: The Healing Power of Art—Sarah and the Blue Room

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To complete the theme of the healing power of art, here’s an excerpt from the book Beyond the Tunnel: the Arts and Aging in America presently available on amazon. Discover with Sarah, a nursing home resident, how art can revitalize each one of us even in the face of illness and death.



Somewhere in the Blue Room, I discovered Sarah or, perhaps more accurately, she discovered me.  It was the meeting room where we, and the rest of the nursing home residents, gathered ritually every Tuesday from May to September at exactly 7:00 p.m. for the course which I was teaching.

And it was truly blue–blue walls, blue carpeting, and blue chairs, always a dark room, even on the most brilliant of days, the windows small, high up, and heavily curtained.  Outside, the last touches of light, a fading spectrum of of rose pink to soft purple, flowed down the noisy avenue—pushing anxiously against speeding cars and stationary buildings, scaling precipitously the spired heights of the Cathedral……..

Sarah was our leader, practically from the beginning.  She was quite a frail woman, her predominant color, white.  White bun, white hair, white skin so thin that I could effortlessly imagine the white, delicate network of bones just beneath the surface.  Fragile was the word for Sarah, but only in a physical sense, for her mind remained strong. She had reached that age and condition where both intellect and body were now fully separate, divided, the one long ago having decided to depart from the other.

It was Sarah who led us us to the paintings on the Blue Room walls.  They were actually reproductions–prints from a variety of worldwide galleries, meticulously mounted and protected by hard, professional glass…….But to Sarah each was an indisputable masterpiece, as if embodying for her all the paintings she had ever known.  Her own personal exhibition that she surveyed religiously before each class–an eclectic collection ranging from Millet’s Angelus with its stock image of two peasants bowed in prayer, to a soft misty spring scene by Corot, to a pleasant, colorful Renoir of boaters relaxing in a cafe along the Seine…….

Excerpt from Chapter III.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rower's Lunch), 1875, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rower’s Lunch), 1875, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

Click on the link, to learn more about Sarah’s story,

Beyond the Tunnel: The Arts and Aging in America by Joan Hart

The above image is used solely for educational purposes.

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