A tactile activity freed Sara, allowing her to feel the art that she could no longer see.

Jean Propst adds paint to her shoebox filled with marbles with the assistance of an Art to Life student. The students assist the participants with creating the art as well as listening to their life stories.

Her feeble hands swirled through a pan filled with shaving cream and food dyes. Nearly blind and diagnosed with macular degeneration, 95-year-old Sara Turner could nevertheless imagine what the piece would look like in her hands.

It was a simple activity, but it carried the weight of a life-changing moment, not only for Sara, but for students from the Honors College’s Art to Life program who were gathered in the room.

At the end of the session, art therapist Karen Gibbons asked each of the students to tell Sara what they thought about her piece, how it made them feel. Sara sat in silence, small tears welling up in her eyes.

“Sara, did you hear what they said? About your art?” Gibbons asked.

“Oh, yes,” Sara responded softly. “And there’s something there. I’m going to call it, ‘A New Beginning.’”

As the tears spread contagiously around the room, Sara whispered, “You have given me my life back.”

Daniel Potts, course director for Art to Life, believes this is the heart behind the program.

“The important thing ceases to be about you and becomes everything about the relationship with the other person,” Potts said. “The key is to be in the moment, be connected, be vulnerable.”

Art to Life is an innovative program that strives to bring art therapy and life story preservation to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Cognitive Dynamics website.

Throughout the years, Art to Life students have used multimedia outlets to document and share the stories of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. In their second year, Art to Life teamed up with the Department of Telecommunication and Film to create a full-length documentary entitled The Art of Healing, which can be viewed here.

For more of this story, check out our magazine coming January 2016.