Museums and Their Positive Effect On Health

Text By Lynn McDaniel

Consider these quotes:

 First-year college students’ self-ratings of their emotional health dropped to record low levels in 2010,’ according to the CIRP Freshman Survey, UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities.’   (HERI)

‘Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally,’ says Jay Winner MD, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif. ‘It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.’ (Griffin)

 The article goes on to list heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging and premature death as examples of health conditions adversely affected by stress. 

In 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA–NCHA—a nationwide survey of college students at 2- and 4-year institutions—found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling ‘so depressed that it was difficult to function’ at some time in the past year. (NIH)

The administrators at Texas A&M University, in their quest to promote the health and well-being of all students, faculty and staff, provide many health service benefits, including immunizations, primary medical care services, sexual assault resources, student counseling services, and stress management tools such as biofeedback.  Texas A&M also offers health-enhancing facilities that are sometimes overlooked and underutilized—such as on-campus museums and cultural opportunities.

Research has proven that viewing and participating in art-related activities has many health benefits.  A report for Arts in Health, by Dr. R. Staricoff, which was published by the Manchester Arts Council in 2004, provided evidence that the arts “can help reduce heart-rate, blood pressure and requests for analgesic medication”, while a recent scientific survey by Glasgow Life, called Cultural Attendance and Public Mental Health, noted that “cultural attendance provides a distinct stimulus to human beings that has an impact on their wellbeing to such a degree that it prolongs their lives.”

An independent study of more than 50,000 participants in Norway provided evidence that “receptive culture” such as viewing art, watching a dance or listening to music actually relieved more stress, anxiety and depression than “creative culture” such as actively writing, dancing, singing, or painting.  How and why does engaging in cultural activities help relieve stress and aid in diminishing depression?  Studies indicate that viewing art allows one to become introspective, to mentally work through problems, to meditate and simply find relief from external pressures.  Even if the exhibition is a disturbing one, such as pictures of Holocaust victims or artifacts from the Titanic, viewing these types of items can be therapeutic and can allow the viewer to reflect, reconcile and heal. (BBC News Health)

Visual art is particularly well suited to helping Alzheimer’s patients, research has found. According to Anne Basting, director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, art can trigger the emotional memory that often remains strong in Alzheimer’s patients, and can give them access to other memories as well. (Gregg)

Art heals the mind, body and spirit.  It provides a powerful antidote to the pressures, anxieties and worries of life.  Museums and galleries offer places of respite where people can simply rest, contemplate and unwind.  Texas A&M offers many cultural opportunities, including:

1. The Reynolds Gallery

2. The TAMU Insect Collection

3. The M. Benz Gallery of Floral Art

4. The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

5. The Cushing Memorial Library and Archives

6. The Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center

7. The Texas A&M Sports Museum

8. The Wright Gallery

9. The J. Wayne Stark Gallery

10. The Forsyth Gallery

11. The Leland T. and Jessie Jordan Institute for International Awareness

12. The Department of Anthropology Model Ship Collection

We invite you to come in and heal.

 Works Cited:

Andrews, Linda Wasmer. Psychology Today: Minding the Body. Museums as Healing Places. Website: Published: December 21, 2010. Accessed: July 22, 2013.

American Alliance of Museums. Museums On Call Report: How Museums are Addressing Health Issues. Website:  Date accessed: July 24, 2013.

BBC News Health.  Culture Linked to Improved Health. Website: Date published: May 24, 2011. Date accessed: July 30, 2013.

Gregg, Gail. Art News. The Persistence of Memories. Website: Date published: November 1, 2011.  Date accessed: July 22, 2013.

Griffin, Morgan R. WebMD Feature.  10 Health Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix.  Website:  Revised: May 3,2010.  Date accessed: July 24, 2013.

Health and Culture.  How museums and galleries can enhance health and wellbeing. Website: Date accessed: July 30, 2013.

Higher Education Research Institute home of Cooperative Institutional Research Program. Publication: Incoming college students rate emotional health at record low, annual survey finds.  Website:  Date published: 2010.  Date accessed:  July 24, 2013.

National Institute of Mental Health. Publications. Depression and College Students.  Website: Date revised: 2012.  Date accessed: July 24, 2013.


Art News – 2 November 2012

Art News – 2 November 2012

The man accused of vandalizing Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair (1929) recently had his first show at the Cueto James Art Gallery in Houston, Texas.  The show for Uriel Landeros was organized by gallery owner James Perez.   The exhibition, titled “Houston, We Have a Problem,” opened on Friday, 26 October 2012.  The opening gala doubled as a Halloween party with free liquor, DJs and music, patrons in Halloween costumes, and Landeros joining the gala via Skype.  It is interesting to note that many of Landeros’ paintings in the exhibition were “tagged” by local graffiti artists in much the same way that he is accused of tagging the Menil Collection’s Woman in a Red Armchair.

Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair (1929) after being vandalized with spray paint. Image courtesy Houston Culture Map.

Landeros remains at large until he turns himself over to the police for questioning.  He is believed to be hiding in northern Mexico.  He reports as belonging to the Occupy Movement and this association as reason for his “fight.”  Landeros has reportedly admitted to vandalizing the Picasso painting and said, “I’m not going to give up on my cause.  It doesn’t matter if I turn myself in or not.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop fighting.”

Owner of Cuerto James Art Gallery in Houston, TX, James Perez stands in front of Uriel Landeros’ first solo exhibition. Image by Melissa Phillip (AP/Houston Chronicle).

Despite the efforts to destroy Woman in a Red Armchair, the painting was immediately cleaned of the spray paint used to create the image of a bull with the word “conquista.”  The Menil Collection of Houston reports that the painting is set to go on display again in the near future.

The Artist Ego by Uriel Landeros, 2012, tagged with “Picasso” by an unknown person. Image courtesy Houston Culture Map.

For more information, click the links below.

1) NY Times article “Picasso vandal gets his own art show

2) Bigstory AP article “Gallery show for accused Picasso vandal raises ire

3) Houston Culture Map article “Menil Picasso vandal’s own paintings are spray painted as his art show debut turns into a side show

4) Houston Culture Map article “The Menil Picasso vandal answers questions, argues that museums steal from the people

5) article “Vandalized Picasso ready to hang again

Art News – 24 October 2012

Here is a wonderful, feel-good piece of art news to remember amongst all of the stories of vandalism and theft that have been recently plaguing the art world.  Our thanks to Mister John Feathers for amassing this amazing collection and his family for donating it to the Los Angeles Public Library so that the world can enjoy and learn from it.

A rare 1944 street map of Los Angeles County, collected by John Feathers

John Feathers spent his life collecting maps and, when he died in February at the age of 56, he had amassed a collection of approximately one million maps.  After he passed away, his family hired realtor Matthew Greenburg to go through the 948 square foot house slated for demolition and rent a dumpster to dispose of the contents.  However, when Greenburg entered the house and saw the incredible collection he couldn’t bring himself to throw everything away.

Realtor Matthew Greenburg holding a shelf with some of the maps from Feathers’ collection.

Greenburg called in the Los Angeles Central Library’s map librarian Glen Creason to evaluate the collection.  He immediately saw that Feathers had collected some very rare maps.  Feathers’ family is donating the incredible collection to the LA Public Library.  The acquisition will launch the library into the top five library map archives in the country, behind only the Library of Congress, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.  Creason stated that, “This dwarfs our collection — and we’ve been collecting for 100 years.”

Feathers stored his maps all over his home.

The process of cataloging the maps will take up to a year and the shelving to house it is expected to measure 600 feet.  The oldest map in the collection is a map of Europe dated to 1592.  Feathers’ Map Collection will become an incredible resource for researchers worldwide.

Is there any item that you collect and do you hope to one day donate it or pass it on?

To read more on this incredible story: click here.

Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance

“The Skeleton Dance” is a short animated film produced by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Les Clark, Roy O. Disney, and Wilfred Jackson.  It was released on the 22nd of August, 1929, and has become an iconic, classic animated short to watch during the Halloween season.  The total budget for the animation was $5,386, which calculates out to $72,886.44 if it had been produced in 2012.

Dancing skeletons, black cats, and other spooky, traditional Halloween imagery are used in the animation.  While we may watch the short and simply enjoy it for a sense of nostalgia, having seen it as children, or find the idea of skeletons dancing in a graveyard humorous and silly, the imagery in “The Skeleton Dance” has an extensive history in Western Art that dates back to the early 1400s.  It is a modern adaptation of the danse macabre, or “dance of death,” which commonly features skeletons dancing and other images of death.

The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut, 1493, a woodcut illustration for the Liber Chronicarum. This is one of the most well known examples of a danse macabre.

The earliest danse macabre images appear in Paris and were dated to 1424-25.  Unfortunately, this mural at the Saints Innocents Cemetery was destroyed in 1669, when the charnier housing the mural was demolished to widen the road behind it.  These images appear only 75 years after the Black Death swept through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia absolutely decimating the population.  In Europe it is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the population and anywhere form 75 to 200 million individuals worldwide perished during the 1300s.  A charnier is a structure built on a burial ground that typically housed the bodies of people that died during the cold winter months until they could be buried after the ground thawed in the Spring or Summer.

An illustration of what the charnier at Saints Innocents Cemetery, Paris, France, with the original danse macabre mural would have looked like during the 1400s to mid 1600s.

The people of the Late Medieval period in Western Europe lived in a world that was dark and full of death.  When these macabre images of dancing skeletons became popular, not only had they lived through the plague within recent memory, but they had also experienced a drastic change in climate with the Little Ice Age intensification during the early 1400s, recurring episodes of famine, and social unrest ran rampant through all of Europe.  During this period wars such as the Hundred Years War claimed around 3.5 million lives.

Medieval people lived in a world where death was an ever present and a pervasive entity.  Scholars believe that genres like danse macabre express the fact that sudden death was always just around the corner, thus heightening the need for religious penitence and constant preparation for death.  They also postulate that portraying images of death and skeletons dancing or doing other humorous activities allowed medieval people to gain some amusement where little was available.

Happy Halloween season, everyone!

The Abbot by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1538, woodcut as part of his Dance of Death series.

To read more about the Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance: click here.

To read more about danse macabre imagery: click here.

To see a great gallery of medieval images of death: click here.

To read more about the crisis of the Late Middle Ages: click here.

Breaking News – 16 October 2012

My quest for upbeat art news for the blog has been foiled again.  The Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was robbed early this morning and seven priceless works of art were stolen.  The paintings removed in the heist include Waterloo Bridge, London (1901) and Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901) by Claude Monet, Harlequin Head (1971) by Picasso, and Reading Girl in White and Yellow (1919) by Matisse, Girl in Front of Open Window (1898) by Paul Gauguin, Self Portrait with a Japanese Background (circa 1890) by Meijer de Haan, and Woman with Eyes Closed (2002) by Lucian Freud.  The paintings were on loan from the privately held Triton Foundation collection.  This was the first time they were on exhibit to the public as a group.  The police are currently investigating the devastating theft.

For more information click here and here and here.

Charing Cross Bridge by Claude Monet, 1901
Waterloo Bridge, London by Claude Monet, 1901
Harlequin Head by Pablo Picasso, 1971
Girl Reading in White and Yellow by Henri Matisse, 1919
Girl in Front of Open Window by Paul Gauguin, 1898
Woman With Eyes Closed by Lucian Freud, 2002
Self Portrait with a Japanese Background by Meijer de Haan, circa 1890

Art in the News!

19th Century mural in a Spanish church ruined by an octogenarian amateur restorer who didn’t have permission to work on the painting.  Makes Jesus look like a bloated hedgehog.  Click here!


Image of botched Spanish restoration goes viral and it’s image is made in candy.  Click here!


Help buy the land and build a Tesla museum!  Click here!



A little vintage fashion: rare images of Edwardian street style in London and Paris.  Click here!



Photographer uses an combination of bulb mode and delayed focusing to capture unique images of fireworks.  Click here!



Maya murals found while renovating a family kitchen.  Click here!

Art in the News!

For our Friday post we have links to stories concerning art in the news.  The arts are always popping up in interesting news stories, so, keep your eyes peeled as you’re reading the morning paper or checking the news online!

Herbert Vogel, post clerk and incredible art collector with over 5,000 pieces in a one bedroom apartment, dies at the age of 89.  Rest in peace, Mr. Vogel.  Click here.

July 23rd was the 40th anniversary of the Landsat Satellite program and the USGS and NASA have released the top 5 LandSat images.  The earth as art: click here.

In the hubbub surrounding the London Olympics, the occurrence of Olympic themed street art and graffiti has skyrocketed.  Click here.

In Memphis, TN, the Memphis College of Art is auctioning off the majority of its collection to ease financial strain.  Click here.

Viktor Veckselberg wins a claim to recover financial losses after discovering the painting purchased at auction for 1.7 million pounds (2.6 million US dollars) was not painted by Boris Kustodiev as advertised.  Click here.

Andrew Rogers creates landscape art sculptures best viewed from the air.  Click here for the gallery.

A construction crew has discovered 3,000 year old human remains in west Harris County, near Houston, TX.  Click here.

See how the Houston Museum of Natural Science installs a floating Eurypterid (ancient sea scorpion) sculpture in the new Hall of Paleontology.  Click here.

Have a happy weekend, everyone!

Dinos abound at the Hall of Paleontology in the Houston Museum of Natural Science!