By Judith Inglavaga

Museums, galleries and exhibitions are slowly reopening and this is helping communities to believe that life is coming back. But what are the consequences of this period without museums, galleries, exhibitions, conferences and cultural events?  Could arts help us to overcome the challenges in a better way? Can the actual post-pandemic world change the way we perceive the arts?

Lots of studies have shown [1] how art can be beneficial for the overall society and the impact that will give to individuals that consume or participate in art related activities. This article is talking about some specific examples about art and health and how we can help to awake the awareness to use art as a part of treatment or solution.

The period of closure of cultural venues made us realize the importance between the connection with well-being and arts. Museums and galleries were closed but everyone at home was spending more and more time painting, writing or singing. The lockdown has shown how society was using their minds to invent new projects, develop alternatives to connect with people online and even trying to see art in a different way, such us; virtual tours, conferences online, etc. Communities needed to express themselves so they did thought arts.

Lots of different projects appeared trying to understand how people were dealing with the isolation, uncertainty and fear. For that reason, an association called Art Well Being presented a questionnaire [2] to collect more data about this connection.

First steps though arts and well-being

The correlation between arts and wellbeing has been studied in a lot of research, one of the most relevant studies between art and health is the report from World Health Organization (WHO) where it states the impact of culture for the well-being of the individuals and society as a whole. The report aims to open a conversation about the connection of the arts in different levels of the society and develop policies to interconnect art programs with art.

The report declares the importance of raising awareness about how art could help to overcome some treatments and diseases in different ways. The WHO research is focused on specific examples of how the connection of arts with people with certain illnesses could dramatically improve the results of the treatment.

One of the examples is the case study about the project called Open Window from the hospital San James from Dublin (Ireland.) The project was developed by artists and clinical staff to reduce the stress of patients with bone transplants that must be isolated for four weeks.

Why was this project so special and “healthy”?  Each patient had their own “open window” projected and they could even choose the content. Thanks to contemporary art and the artist Denis Roche, they could reduce stress and depression from isolation.  The content of the project was based on the interaction between patient and artist that thought photographs, audiovisual artworks and nature sounds were helping to reduce the consequences of this treatment.

This was one of the examples of how art could be part of the treatment of some illness or disease on the physical treatment. New studies come up about the arts as a way to improve mental health.

What’s happening nowadays?

The actual situation brings lots of new uncertainties and problems to our society and some of the  consequences are the risk of anxiety, depression and stress. The data around the increase of people with depression is frightening. A study conducted in Germany that shows a generalized anxiety of 44,9% of the participants and psychological distress 65.2%. Moreover, these symptoms had been found more profoundly in the younger and female population.

Consequently, solutions to treat these new patients are being searched everywhere, but also in the cultural sector. To help broader solutions, projects involving art had appeared on the scene. One of them is the project called Contagious cities.

Contagious cities was based on four different cities: Berlin, Geneva, Hong Kong and New York and it aims to talk about the global challenges of cohabitation in cities. The project is exploring the outcomes of this cohabitation, and the relationship between microbes, migration and the metropolis.”  The project investigated this by putting together exhibitions, artists residence and interactive events.

The success of this international project and the awareness of the new problem made another called Mindscapes, that focuses on the mental health and well-being of the society[3] that will create partnerships and collaborations with different artists. One of the examples of this collaboration is the piece of art of Ellen Reid called SOUNDWALK that will promote self-introspection and experiences of reflection between the participants.

These initiatives are just a few examples of how culture and well-being could cross their activities and move forward to the use of the art as another form for treatment.

What’s next?

It commonly said that the periods of adversity open new opportunities. This could be the year where the cultural sector will be recognized more openly for the benefits of the health of the society. The changes of our lives during 2020 made us realize the order or preferences in our life. Communities realize that the museums, galleries and cultural centers are not just places to learn and discover new things, they could be places where to win traumas, anxieties and do some specific treatments.

Recently, an opinion article about the essential function of cultural venues. In the article the main issue was the importance of the functionality of museums and galleries for the society.The author, Torey Akers[4], points out a crucial question about the operational and functionality of the museums after the long period of closures of these venues. As he declares Museums around the world have been forced to grapple with their social value during lockdown, especially according to the notion of government-mandated “ essentiality” — why were museums closed, but other sites open?”

These questions deal with how cultural venues are seen for the society and which is their functionality. Moreover, the impact that arts could have for the overall society is being proven more and more thanks to the initiatives mentioned above.

The “wellbeing” takeaways

The research has shown how arts are trying to define their value on the sector of well-being and improvement of health and how in a short-term future more and more innovative ideas would participate.  The initiatives about helping societies to prevent and treat anxiety, depression and other mental illness with structured art activities is growing considerably.

Communities, cultural workers and artists around the world are getting aware of the benefits of the arts for their well-being and work together to prepare more plans to put emphasis on health and arts. Examples of conferences where different cultural workers are putting their efforts together are growing lately.[5]

Probably art is not going to save us from hard diseases or difficult illnesses but art will help us to overcome fear, deal with stress and live more peaceful with ourselves.


[1] The following report shows how art activities during the pandemic impacts on the well-being of individuals. Research Report: Art consumption and well-being during Covid-19 pandemic

[2] Art consumption and well-being during the Covid 19 pandemic

[3] This project use their data thanks to the company WellCome.

[4] Post-COVID, How Can Museums Remain Essential? | Jing Culture and Commerce

[5] Example: Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference: 21-23 June 2021 | CHWA