How museums promote well-being and serenity

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The pandemic is putting a strain on each of us. Loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress have been common travel companions for the past two and a half years, along with the consumption of anxiolytics and antidepressants. Covid has forced Italians to rethink their future: health, work, relationships can no longer be taken for granted. In this context museums they took to the forefront to promote well-being and serenity of citizenship.

Already Canadian general practitioners, in 2018, began to prescribe museum visits as a therapy to improve psychophysical conditions and a similar initiative was also tested in Belgium. Research from the University of Westminster, in the United Kingdom, also goes in this direction, which revealed that a visit to an art gallery during the lunch break can significantly reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Let’s see what happens in Italy.

  • In Turin, from the doctor to the Egyptian Museum

“Once upon a time, you entered the museum on tiptoe, like when you went to church,” he says Paola Matossi The Bear, director of marketing communication and external relations at the Egyptian museum in Turin. “With this attitude, for a long time we have kept people away from the enjoyment of cultural heritage. Today we believe that the museum can be a fun place, a source of well-being and even health. With this in mind, we have launched the initiative Basic Culture: we have set up a real one medical office inside the Egyptian museum so that patients, instead of staying in the waiting room with their doctor, can enjoy the beauty of our collections. We believe that the humanization of health centers can be addressed not only in hospitals, but also in different spaces, where the person, who may be in a condition of physical and psychological fragility, can face a medical examination enjoying a moment of relaxation. relaxation in a suggestive place.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, patients arrive and are escorted to the doctor’s office on the ground floor of the museum. While they wait their turn, or immediately after the consultation, they can access the Gallery of the Kings, the scenographic room that contains the monumental statuary located on the ground floor near the clinic. The project is in collaboration with the Compagnia di San Paolo, the Foundation for Architecture and the Circolo del Design and will remain in force until the end of the year ».

  • In Bologna, he develops a second view at the Ptolemy Museum

If you are thinking that the Ptolemy Museum – Francesco Cavazza Institute for the Blind in Bologna is dedicated only to blind people you are wrong. “The whole project is inclusive in nature: it is open to everyone,” he says Fabio Fornasariarchitect museologist and artistic director of the Ptolemy Museum.

«The first room is not made up of display cases and cabinets that protect objects but of a huge table that collects them for use. They are spatialized along a sinuous line: sight is not used but acoustic sensors that make objects present, giving them voice, bringing back the sound memory of things immersed in their environment of use. We move in space with the proprioception, that is, paying attention to the sensitivity of our body to feel, keep in balance, calibrate one’s step, move by touching the sinuosity of the table. The atelier, which is the second room, focuses on the ability of every human being to construct the image of an object through the experience of touch (I touch the object with my hands, exploring, looking carefully and feeling my body that follows the movement). Finally, the third room is that multisensory which works not only on blindness but on pluridisability. Here devices are created to accompany children to discover the world with a variety of stimuli. The aim is to open a dialogue between different alphabets, codes and languages ​​», concludes the expert.

  • In Milan, anxiety and stress are fought in museums

The project is starting in Milan ASBA (Anxiety, Stress, Brain friendly Museum Approach), the brain’s ally museum against anxiety and stress. “This is an interdisciplinary program that aims to stimulate the well-being of the community through a series of methodologies such as Mindfulness, Art Therapy, Visual Thinking Strategies, the Art Up method”, he says Annalisa Banziart historian, consultant and researcher at CESPEB, Center for Studies on the History of Biomedical Thought in Milan.

“Each of these methods will be used in a museum of visual arts and in a scientific one to demonstrate that these strategies work in different contexts. Mindfulness is an extensively tested program at a clinical level, capable of developing greater attention control and better emotional stability through the regulation of emotions, reducing anxiety and stress levels. L’Art Therapy it is based on the use of artistic activities (for example painting) for curative purposes when verbal communication becomes difficult. The Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) are a learning method based on group discussion, led by a facilitator, in front of an object in a museum: it improves self-esteem, develops problem solving and interpersonal skills. The method Art Up (only in figurative art museums) adopts a methodology based on the integrated skills of art historians, psychoanalysts and facilitators whose goal is the understanding of art to promote mental well-being ».

The initiative starts in October at the Museum of Natural History and at the Gallery of Modern Art in Milan.

  • In Brescia, integration takes place inside the museum spaces

Is human rights and the enhancement of contemporary art a possible combination? “We are firmly convinced of that,” he says Stefano Karadjovdirector of the Brescia Museums Foundation (bresciamusei.com).

«We believe in the great power of art as a unifying element of cultures and peoples. Last May we launched an initiative in support of the Ukrainian people and we opened the doors not only to the Ukrainian community already residing in Brescia but also to refugees who have arrived from the ongoing war. This project of cultural mediation provides that the exhibition contents are told by new citizens: therefore it is the Ukrainians themselves who tell our collections to their compatriots but also to Italians. In this way we can raise awareness and work in a perspective of interculturality.

Furthermore, again with the intention of launching initiatives dedicated to inclusion, an exhibition of Victoria Lomasko, a Russian dissident artist who intends to tell the story of deep Russia, far from Moscow and Petersburg. Her goal is to bring the Russian and Ukrainian peoples closer and to introduce the Italian public to the other side of this great country. In the name of art, the exhibition will be led by a group of Ukrainian refugees who can sensitize the entire population in a perspective of peace and sharing ».

  • In Bolzano, Alzheimer’s is treated in front of a painting

When suffering from cognitive impairment, art can become a form of care and well-being. “This is exactly what we do at Museion (museion. It), a museum of modern and contemporary art in Bolzano,” he says Brita Köhler, responsible for public services and educational projects. “Since 2016 we have given birth to Alzheimer Circle, a free initiative dedicated to Alzheimer’s patients who reside in the nursing homes and who are invited to our rooms to enjoy the beauty of our collections. Each session lasts 90 minutes: participants are seated in front of a work of art and stimulated through a series of sensory and tactile materials. They can be objects to smell or touch, relaxing music, sometimes even a foot massage because it is congenial to develop interaction with the work of art. At that point I make them concentrate on the contrast, color, materiality, shape and size of the chosen work. We never talk about the interpretation and the artist but about what the museum object evokes. And in this way they begin to socialize, laugh and relax, talking about their life and their memories. The group is made up of 9 people with Alzheimer’s plus 9 carers who can be care givers, psychologists, art therapists and relatives ».

What happens to the brain in front of a work of art

“Modern neuroimaging techniques (such as functional magnetic resonance imaging) allow us to investigate what happens in our brains when we face a work of art,” he says. Vittorio Sironi, specialist in Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Studies on the History of Biomedical Thought (vesseb.eu), University of Milan Bicocca. “We know, for example, that different areas are stimulated when we are looking at a landscape, a portrait or a still life and that specific neurons are selectively activated in relation to various colors (black, white, green, yellow)” concludes the expert.