The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though
Met Art

The Met, Delivered

For Naomi, age 75, a postcard of an antique Iznik ceramic plate had the power to bring her back to childhood when she carefully handled her grandmother’s set of dishes. With tears in her eyes, Naomi shared these memories with Diane, a Citymeals’ volunteer, who responded with her own recollections, prompted by the photos.

Naomi was hesitant to use the colored pencils but soon began to enjoy herself.

Naomi and Diane are participants in Citymeals’ Friendly Visiting program, which is partnering with The Metropolitan Museum of Art to bring art directly to the homebound elderly. Each month, a special Met Art Box arrives at the homes of volunteers and meal recipients. Each package focuses on a particular theme and includes images of works from The Met’s collection, a discussion guide, and a set of materials, such as a sketchpad and colored pencils. May’s theme was “The Art of Refreshment,” and included some tea samples, while July’s was “Summer in New York City,” and included materials to create a paper fan.

As a dedicated volunteer, Diane calls recently widowed Naomi once a week. They chat about their daily lives, but when art boxes generously provided by The Met arrived, they quickly sparked enthusiastic discussion.  

For Naomi, the benefit of the art boxes is “not just in the pictures, it’s the conversation!”

And Naomi and Diane are only two of 1,000 meal recipients and volunteers to receive the boxes. Winston, a 69-year-old meal recipient in Brooklyn, is an artist and retired teacher. He and his Friendly Visiting volunteer, Mars, are integrating the Met Art Box into their weekly chats. “One piece, by Louis Comfort Tiffany, in particular caught my attention,” he says, “It looks like a painting of a tree, but it’s really panels of glass. Wow! That’s exceptional. It’s beautiful and almost looks like a jigsaw puzzle.” 

The art boxes provide access to a quintessentially New York experience. As Vivienne O’Neill, Citymeals’ Senior Director of Volunteer Programs explained, “Many of our recipients have fond memories of trips to the Museum but are no longer able to stroll the galleries. With these monthly art boxes, sent directly to their homes, Citymeals recipients and the volunteers who visit with them can enjoy the wonder and inspiration of art.”

It was through these art packages that Naomi unlocked a new passion. While Diane loves to draw and encouraged Naomi to do the same, Naomi felt self-conscious. Then one day, she simply picked up the colored pencils and started to sketch.

The boxes encourage isolated New Yorkers to create their own art.
The boxes encourage isolated New Yorkers to create their own art.

These kinds of experiences truly enrich the lives of isolated New Yorkers, providing inspiration and opportunity to connect with the world beyond their homes. Citymeals is grateful to The Met for its compassionate support and thanks the Museum for demonstrating the power of neighbors helping neighbors.

Thinking about their elderly recipient, one volunteer smiled, saying, “It’s extraordinarily delightful to see the happiness their memories bring back to them as they recall their past. Looking forward to the next package!”

Food For Thought