Homebound older adult recipients of Citymeals across New York City’s five boroughs will receive an art box to promote connection and well-being through art making and volunteer-led conversations about art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has partnered with Citymeals on Wheels on a new initiative to bring creative and art-focused activities, inspired by The Met collection, to older adults throughout New York City. The monthly “Your Met Art Box” features four art cards with full-color images of works from the Museum’s permanent collection, along with questions and activities to encourage seniors and Citymeals volunteers to explore art and art making together during weekly conversations. Citymeals volunteers received training from The Met’s Education Department on techniques and approaches to facilitate engaging conversations about art. The box, whose contents will be tied to a monthly theme, will also include materials and other items that engage the senses; a booklet of bonus information about each featured work of art; and two stamped, large-format postcards that act as free passes to the Museum. Recipients are encouraged to write and send these postcards to family and friends to inspire communication and community connection after a year of increased isolation among older New Yorkers due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Art has the power to heal communities,” said Heidi Holder, Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chair of Education at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “and these conversations between Citymeals volunteers and older adults centered around these masterpieces strengthen connections between people. Already, some recipients are using their passes to visit The Met with their friends and family, reconnecting with loved ones as our city re-emerges. We look forward to building on these relationships with our New York neighbors and making our collection accessible to all.”

Vivienne O’Neill, Senior Director of Volunteer Programs and Corporate Engagement at Citymeals on Wheels, added: “Citymeals is thrilled to partner with The Met to bring the arts to homebound elderly New Yorkers. 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.”

Each month “Your Met Art Box” is sent to over 1,000 Citymeals recipients and volunteers. May’s theme “The Art of Refreshment,” featured tea from local Chinatown business Grand Tea & Imports and multisensory activities such as tea tasting and drawing activities. Upcoming “Your Met Art Box” themes include “The Art of Hospitality” (June), exploring hospitality customs around the world with incense and an incense burner to examine the relationship between art, scent, and culture; and “Summer in New York City” (July), including art materials to design and create a paper fan. All recipients have elected to receive the art box and to be part of these volunteer-led conversations.

Citymeals’ Friendly Visiting program pairs caring volunteers with isolated meal recipients throughout the city who are in need of companionship, but because of Covid-19, these weekly visits have shifted from in-person conversations to phone calls and video chats. “Your Met Art Box,” an initiative conceived by Holder and developed with The Met’s Education and other departments across the Museum, aims to use art to decrease social isolation and promote overall well-being through art making and volunteer-led conversations about art.

In spring 2021, The Met offered virtual training sessions to nearly 100 Citymeals volunteers who hold regular phone calls with art box recipients. At each training session, a Met educator facilitated demonstration conversations and activities relating to the works of art featured in the box and offered tips and strategies for engaging seniors in conversations about art, including adaptations for those with various disabilities. Once volunteers are able to return to visiting recipients in their homes, these conversations and activities will shift to in person, opening even more opportunities for engaging and connecting with older people through art.

“Your Met Art Box” is made possible by donors to The Met’s Education Department in honor of the Museum’s 150th anniversary.

About Citymeals on Wheels

Citymeals on Wheels (citymeals.org) provides a continuous lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to nearly 20,000 homebound elderly New Yorkers. Working in partnership with community-based organizations and senior centers, Citymeals has prepared and delivered over three million weekend, holiday, and emergency meals since the start of the pandemic.Last year, 19,865 volunteers gave more than 82,000 hours of time to Citymeals’ mission.

About The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens— businessmen and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day—who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. Today, The Met displays tens of thousands of objects covering 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in two iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online. Since its founding, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.

About The Met’s Education Department

Dedicated to making art accessible to everyone, regardless of background, disability, age, or experience, the work of The Met’s Education Department is central to the Museum’s mission to engage local and global audiences, making our collection accessible to all. The Education Department currently presents over 29,000 educational events and programs throughout the year. These programs include workshops, art-making experiences, specialized tours, fellowships supporting leading scholarship and research, high school and college internships that promote career accessibility and diversity, K-12 educator programs that train teachers to integrate art into core curricula across disciplines, and school tours and programs that spark deep learning and lifelong relationships with and through art. 

Photo:@metmuseum