Art and Wellness: Community Partnerships

The current issue of Muse includes an article by Shirley Madill focusing on the relationship of “Art and Wellness.” Madill’s piece focuses on the role of museums and art galleries in communities, the connection of arts and health, and the wellness benefits associated with public engagement in the arts.

She argues that “Investment in the arts produces important social benefits that have a strong positive impact on both individual and community health.”  Madill includes examples of numerous Canadian initiatives that highlight the collaborative partnerships between health organizations and art institutions.

For example, The Art for Healing Foundation aims to bring art into hospitals and other care facilities as a means of creating inspiring, peaceful, and beautiful environments for patients and healthcare workers.  Since 2002 the Foundation has been responsible for installing over 8000 works of art in institution across Canada.

The integration of artwork into hospital settings can also be seen at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg and their decision to to open the Buhler Gallery in 2007.  Located within the Hospital the Buhler Gallery has seen over 75,000 people visit the space with more than a third of the visitors being hospital patients. The Gallery has successfully created a welcoming reflective space for visitors and highlights the intersection of art and healing. 

In addition to hospital based art programs, Madill also highlights the benefits of programming created by community galleries that is geared toward people dealing with health issues.  The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, where Madill works, partnered with the local Alzheimer Society to create a “Gather in the Gallery” program.  The programming focuses on engaging Alzheimer patients and their caregivers within the gallery space.  Current in it’s fourth year this program has been seen as a success by the gallery, Alzheimer Society and its participants.

Overall Madill’s work reminded me a lot of the Journey Women exhibit I was able to be part of in 2014 that focused on using art based healing to create ‘body maps’ which reflected personal healing experiences.  The article also made me think about the potential within in many museums and galleries to collaborate with health based organizations.  There are tremendous opportunities for engagement, public outreach, and the creation of new programming that is beneficial to both communities and galleries.

If you’re interested in the intersection of art and health I recommend checking out the September/October 2014 issue of Muse as it contains Madill’s excellent piece and others focusing on the role of museums and galleries in health.  

Google’s Art Project

There has been a lot of discussion in social media and by news outlets recently of Google’s newly launched Art Project. The Project uses street view technology to allow users to explore the collections of museum and art galleries. It includes the ability to create an ‘individual art collection’ of pieces you like. Art Project features 385 rooms in 17 well known cultural institutions, and over 1,000 works by 486 artists. Each participating organization has also selected a work to be classified as “gigapixel artwork.” These selected pieces have a dramatically increased zoom feature which allows users to look at minute details. Additionally, Google maps is linked to the Art Project, allowing users to ‘jump’ to exploring institutions using Google maps.

Despite the some of the benefits and potential of this initiative there has been a number of complaints regarding how information was gathered and how it is being displayed. A number of images are blurred out in galleries due to copyright issues. Similarly, only a handful of images are currently available in high resolution. The low resolution images leave out a vast amount of detail in intricate works. Only a select number of institutions are currently part of the Project and there has yet to be an indication of if or when the project will expand.

The Art Project is an interesting idea. However, in its current form it merely exposes some of the world’s most well known art work. It does little for smaller institutions, lesser known artists, and the preservation of a wide range of artistic material.