Health & Wellness

Museums are Fun—And They’re Good for You!

by Jeff Macharyas, Director of Communications

Museums, such as the Everson Museum of Art, are not just a place to visit on a rainy day, but an engine for economic growth and a health benefit to society. Art, culture, and museums improve society’s mental health and well-being, aid in improving physical health, and bolster the financial health of the community. Museums aren’t just fun—they’re good for you!

Measuring the Public & Economic Value of Art Museum Experiences, a study conducted by John H. Falk, Nicole Claudio, David Meier, and Judith Koke at the Institute for Learning Innovation in March 2023, asked visitors to rate the degree of well-being they experienced as a consequence of their museum visit.

Personal Well-Being – people stated that the museum catalyzed a sense of wonder, that it supported their interest and curiosity; all of which fostered a sense of personal power and identity.

Intellectual Well-Being – people stated that their museum experiences helped them make intellectual connections, that it allowed them to more clearly comprehend how specific past events and processes worked, as well as better understand art or history or science concepts.

Social Well-Being – many visitors reported that their museum experience enhanced their social relationships; creating opportunities for connections that would otherwise have been difficult, and by so doing, increase their sense of belonging with their family, group, and even their community. Although infrequently directly stated, implicit in many visitor’s comments was the sense that their visit bestowed them with a high degree of status and respect; that others in their social network were impressed by the fact that they had gone to the museum.

Physical Well-Being – common in the recollections of museum visitors are statements about the beauty of the building and grounds, and the fact that they visited the museum in part because of this novelty, plus, they felt safe and secure at the museum. Others have reported that visiting the museum made them feel healthier and more peaceful, that their museum experience was physically and mentally restorative, that it allowed them to gather (physically or virtually) with others and interact, explore, play, and enjoy without fear or anxiety.

For those who seek sanctuary and solace in creative surroundings we should treasure the way in which museums can help to reduce feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression in their visitors.

In his book, The Value of Museums: Enhancing Societal Well-Being, author John Falk states: “The key insight this book advances is that museum experiences successfully support a major driver of human behavior—the desire for enhanced well-being. Knowingly or not, the business of museums has always been to support and enhance the public’s personal, intellectual, social and physical well-being. Over the years, museums have excelled at this task, as evidenced by the almost indelible memories museum experiences engender. People report that museum experiences make them feel better about themselves, more informed, happier, healthier and more enriched; all outcomes directly related to enhanced well-being.”

Creative Activity Benefits Mental Health
In MuseumNext, August 4, 2022, Rebecca Carlson reported that “in North Wales, a partnership of four museums and galleries developed a project to deliver museum-based art sessions for people with a history of mental health problems. This was part of a larger research study that asked the question: ‘Can creative engagement in museums improve the mental health and well-being of people experiencing mental distress?’”

The findings of the study concluded that creative activity in museums has a significant beneficial impact on the mental well-being of people suffering from mental distress, and that the museum setting itself contributed to this effect.

Le Moyne’s Art in Medicine Initiative
Here in Syracuse, the Art in Medicine Initiative was started in fall 2022 by Anthony Vinciquerra, MD, Director, Medical Humanities and HRSA Grant Coordinator & Senior Physician, at Le Moyne College.

Dr. Vinciquerra says, “the initiative was started for first-year physician assistant students in the Le Moyne College PA Program. The two-hour workshop at the Museum is based on research from other health care institutions utilizing this unique teaching approach, and it shows several areas of improved clinical skills among participant-providers.”

In fall 2023, Le Moyne’s Occupational Therapy students and faculty joined the project, making it interprofessional in scope. The plan is to have nursing students and faculty join this year as well to enhance the interprofessional education even further.

During the workshop, participants are encouraged to move away from the notion of a single “right answer,” and instead, move toward the idea of weighing visual evidence.

Looking at a curated piece of art as a group first, then later as paired-off partners, the purpose includes promoting visual literacy, fostering critical, flexible and analytic thinking, holding several hypotheses simultaneously, slowing down (i.e., not jumping to conclusions), and attending to both the details and the bigger picture. All of these are important qualities of good providers who are actively listening to their patients.

As with other medical institutions employing art as a teaching vehicle, this exercise increases observational acuity and descriptive language skills, promotes respectful interprofessional teamwork and helps participants develop more comfort when articulating ambiguity. This is especially important when navigating uncertainty with patients.

All of these goals and objectives transfer beautifully to care of the patient and the patient’s family. Akin to making hospital interprofessional practice rounds, the group begins by describing the obvious, then analyzing the details and finally reaching a collective truth.

A consequence of this and similar projects is to promote humanistic medicine, and compassionate, competent providers. Art is a catalyst that enhances empathy, strengthens communication skills and creative expression, and softens the often “hard-edge” of medicine.

CNY Teen Arts Council Collaborative
Sara Bessette, M.S., LMHC, Graduate Student, Department of Creative Arts Therapy, Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts joins the cohort for the CNY Teen Arts Council Collaborative. CNY Teen Arts Council Collaborative is approaching its program through the lens of health, wellness, and art therapy.

“The Everson Museum, Syracuse Stage, and Symphoria are bringing all of our teens together for a culminating project which will be premiered at the Everson in May 2024. A pretty epic collaboration with lots of moving parts!” exclaimed Adam Carlin, former Director of Learning & Engagement, Everson Museum.

Financial Health
U.S. art museums generate $52 billion in well-being benefits annually. Every museum visit produces $905 in social benefits per visitor, according to a study conducted at 11 art institutions and reported by The Art Newspaper.

“Admission to an art museum in the U.S. might set you back $15 or $25 or nothing at all, depending on where and who you are. But a new study that sets out to measure the societal value of museums in monetary terms estimates that a single visit will pay dividends many times over in benefits to your well-being, equivalent to more than $900 per adult visitor,” wrote Hannah McGivern, The Art Newspaper, June 6, 2023.

State-Level Estimates of the Arts’ Economic Value and Employment
Analysis shows that while the total economic value added by arts and cultural industries grew by 13.7% from 2020-2021, several core arts industries did not return to pre-pandemic production levels. This group includes independent artists (as an industry), performing arts organizations (e.g., theater, dance, and opera companies, music groups; and circuses), and arts-related construction, among many others. Despite setbacks for those industries, the overall arts economy in 2021 represented 4.4% of GDP, or just more than $1 trillion—a new high-water mark.

Additionally, in 2021, just under 4.9 million workers were employed to produce arts and cultural goods and services, which is fewer than the 2019 (pre-pandemic) level of 5.2 million but more than the 2020 level of 4.6 million workers.

New York State:
$143.8 billion:
Value added to state’s economy
by the arts

Arts’ value-added as a share
of state’s economy

$58.7 billion:
Arts worker compensation

Arts employment

Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA), 2021; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts. March 2023.

First: Sky Yoga on the Community Plaza, behind the Everson. People gathered for outdoor practices to celebrate coming together in community. After class, they moved inside the Evening for meditative walks through the Museum.

Second: The Everson and the Le Moyne College Department of Physician Assistant Studies Medical Humanities partnered to launch a pilot program that used interactions with art to heighten the observational and interpretive skills of students. Video still from, Madison Moore, October, 12, 2022.

It was through an intentional care group that I got connected with the Everson, and since then, we have worked to create a sober, wholesome, and safe artistic space for the LGBTQIA+ community in Syracuse. The drive to create these spaces through art classes, events, and networking came from my personal need to surround myself with a community that could
support my own sobriety and exploration of identity through art.

—August Sable, Everson Teaching Artist
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