Art’s Power to Heal on Display in ‘Rêves de Provence’

October 2, 2012

For centuries dreams have been an inspiration to artists. This month their power to motivate, empower and heal is on display in an exhibition of work by SVA students at the hospital in France where Van Gogh made many of his best known paintings.

Rêves de Provence” brings together photographs made by participants in the summer Arts Abroad program Photography in Southern France: Discover the Light of Provence. Led by faculty member Jean-Marc Veillon, students traveled to the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul—a women’s psychiatric clinic that occupies a historic site in Saint-Rémy—to document an unusual art workshop. With encouragement from an art therapist, patients donned costumes of their own making to act out their dream identity—everything from an archaeologist to a princess, a singer to a dancer—in front of the camera.

Rêves de Provence” includes the resulting portraits, along with students’ photographs of Provence—an expression of their own dreams as travelers—and the patients’ own artworks. In English, the title of the exhibition can mean either “Dreams from Provence,” referring to the perspective of the patients, who live in the region, or “Dreams of Provence,” referring to the visiting Americans.

Presented in conjunction with the 2012 Journées de patrimoine, an annual program of special events to celebrate France’s cultural heritage, the exhibition kicked off on September 15 with a public reception, concert and film screening, which were hosted by Dr. Jean-Marc Boulon, chief psychiatrist at the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul, and SVA Executive Vice President Anthony Rhodes.

“Three years ago our two institutions joined forces around a simple idea: that making art is special for its ability to bring people together and help them heal,” said Rhodes, offering remarks in French.

On view through October 16, “Rêves de Provence” is the third exhibition organized by SVA in partnership with the Valetudo Association at the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul with the aim of increasing the awareness of art making as a therapeutic activity, following successful outings in 2010 and 2011. Visiting information in English is online at

Images: Edwin Forti, James Vil, Yasaman Alipour Fetrati.

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