Cultivating Emotional Wellbeing: Museums & Art Therapy
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Museums are expanding the social role they play in their community through wellbeing initiatives. Although art therapy programs are an emerging trend in the developing museums and health field, and are known to positively influence wellbeing, research is lacking regarding the cultivation and holistic impacts of emotional wellbeing. The purpose of this research study was to examine whether, and in what ways, museum-based art therapy programs cultivate emotional wellbeing. This qualitative case study investigated 3 open group, single-visit art therapy programs. Data were collected through direct observations, semi-structured interviews with program facilitators, and document analysis. The findings suggest that museum-based art therapy programs can cultivate emotional wellbeing, and that they do so in three main ways: 1) program goals that emphasize wellbeing; 2) viewing and discussing art in the gallery, allowing verbal expression of thoughts and feelings; and 3) art-making, allowing artistic exploration and expression of emotions. Further, benefits of the programs studied here included: 1) health and wellness outcomes as related to a general sense of emotional wellbeing, 2) socialization and increased feelings of joy and acceptance, and 3) experiencing and regulating specific emotions. These findings suggest museum professionals and art therapists can expand upon the spectrum of positive emotions to further impact participants’ wellbeing beyond physical or mental health.
- Museology 
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