From wealth to well-being: how art benefits individuals as well as communities

Art museums and galleries can be agents of change and social cohesion. They contribute to the mental and emotional health of individuals as well as communities. In Part II of our photo essay on Montreal’s Museum of Fine arts, we showcase more of its exhibits along with art therapy initiatives.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 360 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

With a collection of over 43,000 artworks and an innovative series of exhibitions, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) received over a million visitors last year. Along with classic and contemporary art, the current exhibition features French haute couturist Thierry Mugler (see Part I of our photo essay here).

A series of health and education sector partnerships also strengthens MMFA’s offerings in art therapy and well-being. From inspiration and curiosity to awareness and entertainment (and sometimes confusion and frustration as well!), art invokes a range of emotions in audiences.

Meaningful art engagement has also been shown to have therapeutic effects for people with mental health issues and social inclusion challenges. MMFA offers art therapy workshops, a medical consultation room, and an Art Hive, created in collaboration with the Department of Creative Arts Therapy at Concordia University. The MMFA Art and Health Advisory Committee (chaired by Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Quebec) coordinates partnerships and projects in this regard.

For example, some exploratory workshops are designed to help break the isolation of teenagers and young adults living with speech disorders or sensory impairments. Art helps them get beyond their disabilities and express themselves freely, thus promoting self-esteem and communication skills.

MMFA’s Art Hive is a creative studio where the public can connect with artists, educators and therapists. Inter-generational sessions are conducted by experts, with art materials provided free of charge. Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) provides household and institutional recycled supplies: fabric, wood, metal, CDs, beads, buttons, and various types of paper.

Another MMFA initiative, called EducArt, provides resources to high school teachers of all subjects, beyond art history. It draws connections between art, environment, culture, sociology, politics, and education.

“I am convinced that, in the twenty-first century, culture will be recognised as being as important for health as sport was in the twentieth century,” says Nathalie Bondil, Director, MMFA; she joins us in an interview in Part III of this photo essay.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule, and immerse yourself in the healing power of art?

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