The Art Connection
by Tova Speter

The Art Connection is a Boston nonprofit organization (currently celebrating its 13th anniversary) that seeks to enrich and educate under-served communities by expanding public access to original art. This distinct program places the work of donor artists on the walls of community service organizations. Within these healing environments, the art provides welcome opportunities for reflection, inspiration, comfort and hope. Sometimes, just one painting or sculpture can make a difference. This simple but powerful idea has resulted in thousands of installations into scores of organizations, giving those who often have the least access to art direct contact in their own communities.

A win-win for both artist and agency – the artwork is seen by many community members annually, often those who do not have regular access to original artwork. The artists feel good about gifting a work that has the potential to really make a difference in the life of someone in need; the agencies feel good about respecting their clients and staff by creating a warm and welcoming environment; and the community members feel good about experiencing artwork firsthand, often when they are accessing services during a difficult time in their lives.

Agencies must qualify for the program through an application process and must provide direct services to an underserved community. Common placements are homeless shelters, health clinics, community centers, and treatment facilities.

Perhaps one of the most significant components of our program, agencies create a selection committee of clients as well as staff to look through the art portfolio and choose the work that is most meaningful to them. In this way – a dialogue is created not only between staff and client, but also between staff and art, and client and art, and vice versa. The selection process is empowering for all involved and allows for a deeper look into artwork and what it means to them.

No need to take our word for it.
The program has caused such a stir that it has expanded already to Washington DC and New York City. What people are saying:

“It fulfills a lot of purposes… one of them is that there is not enough art in public spaces… and from an artist’s perspective, I want people to be looking at art as often as possible.”
-Ken Beck, artist

“Part of making art is communicating. Work sitting in a closet is not communicating with anybody.”
-Martha Jane Bradford, artist

“It is important to me that my artwork reached appreciative audiences who may have limited opportunities to view original work.”
-Marian Dioguardi, artist

Community members:
“When I walk into a room I’ve never ever been into, I look around and see what’s in it. If there’s lots of art I feel wanted. If there isn’t, I feel lonely.”
-Fifth grade student, Paige Academy

“Both times I was arrested, my mom would never come to visit me. She’d always send someone else to pay my bail and see where I was. But she came here, and she saw this painting (Difficult Decision by Fay Chandler) – and then she came back the next week. She sat at the table, and just looked at that painting. And we talked. I was shocked. I still can’t believe it.”
-Wanda, resident, McGrath House

“If you can’t bring the children to the museums, you need to bring the museums to the children.”
-Bill Walczak, CEO, Codman Square Health Center

“Fine art reveals creativity, imagination, beauty, emotional involvement and intellectual stimulation to all who see it. This is the kind of benefit that says to all our stakeholders, ‘We value you, we appreciate your efforts in treatment an d recovery.’ The chronically under-resourced public health sector cannot offer luxurious environments, but through donated art, we can help provide a setting that encourages healing and wellness.”
-Carolyn Ingles, Director of Support Services, Metro Boston Mental Health at Shattuck Hospital

Comments from Demetri Yannopolous, Boston Rescue Mission:

The client opens the door panting and sweating. “Man, those stairs always kick my butt,” she gasps. There are six floors in the Boston Rescue Mission, and each floor serves a purpose in helping people recover from homelessness. The halls of the Boston Rescue Mission are filled with emotions: fear, hunger, hope, joy and transformation. They are now also filled with art as The Art Connection has helped make even the walls part of the recovery process. Residents struggle every day to get their lives back in order, but with the help of generous artists, the Mission has become a warmer place.

The Boston Rescue Mission has been working on transforming the lives of the poor and homeless since 1899. Reverend John Samaan, President of the Boston Rescue Mission, commented that “We now have splendid pieces of artwork that will brighten people’s lives for years to come.” The artwork now decorates the halls of the Boston Rescue Mission, and clients have begun to take notice and talk about what it means to them emotionally and spiritually. Erica, a client living at the Mission exclaimed that “Every day I face my demons, but the artwork has brought much needed comfort and beauty into my life. It gives me hope.”

Art offers all of us an opportunity to experience emotions, thoughts, and feelings that we can’t find elsewhere. It is a chance to escape to new worlds, to engage in discussion, or to gain a spiritual breather. The art donated through The Art Connection now provides the opportunity not only to make a person feel better, but to truly be a part of a person’s life during their road to recovery.

Comments from Marian Dioguardi, donating artist:

Donating my art through The Art Connection has always been meaningful for me. It is important to me that my art work reaches appreciative audiences who may have limited opportunities to view original art work. My art’s placement with the East Boston Health Center, this summer, was especially meaningful. You see, I grew up in East Boston selling my crayon drawings door to door to my understanding neighbors on Webster Street. My neighbors were always gracious and generous with me and now it’s my turn to say thank you and give something back to the community.

As an active and clumsy child I was an all too familiar face at the EBHC, then known as “The Relief Station”. After asking my ritual question “How many stitches did I get?” I was always relieved and released once again to play, run and inevitably to fall. Now the EBHC continues to play an important part in my life as it cares for my parents Nick and Marie, life long residents of East Boston. Having my work chosen , hanging and welcoming everyone to the East Boston Health Center as me and my family have always been welcome gives me great pleasure.

Other info:
The Art Connection was established in 1995 as a vehicle for distributing original works of art to public, charitable, and educational institutions, in a manner pioneered by Fay Chandler, a painter and sculptor working in Boston since the early 1970s. As Fay began considering what would happen to her unsold inventory of work at her death or disability, she became convinced that the best result would be transferring the work, in conjunction with the work of other artists, free of charge, to interested public and nonprofit organizations in the community that have no funds for purchasing art. The program grew as founding directors recognized a demand for expanding public access to the visual arts and from their ability to build a unique program to meet that need. Since its inception 13 years ago, this unique gifting program has supported over 250 agencies in their personal selection of over 3700 pieces by 250 artists and collectors.

If you are an artist interested in donating work or an agency representative interested in receiving work, please contact us at Also- check out our new website at

Tova Speter, Boston

#permalink posted by Erika Knerr: 11/24/08 03:49:00 PM


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