Louvre Abu Dhabi offers sessions to support well-being ahead of World Mental Health Day

The iconic UAE art museum explains how art can help support community health through various lessons on its premises



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Sun 9 Oct 2022, 3:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 9 Oct 2022, 7:54 PM

Museums aren’t just a place to promote culture and knowledge, but its role in our lives has become prominent, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the past few years, museums like Louvre Abu Dhabi have been supporting the cause of mental well-being through world-class works of art.

Maral Jule Bedoyan, education and learning resources manager at Louvre Abu Dhabi, noted that art is a powerful tool to improve physical and mental health as it makes the mind slow down and focus on details.

“It’s been known that engaging with art in any form is good for your overall well-being. It allows your moments to slow down, to look, to reflect, to spend some time thinking of something,” she said and highlighted that looking, understanding and appreciating art restores and improves mental health and wellness.

Bedoyan said that museums are a place where people are able to connect through art.

“When it comes to the museum, and specifically fine arts, it’s the idea that engaging with an object whether from historical times, antiquity or paintings from the modern contemporary times, they are able to take a moment to look at the object. And through that idea of looking, it’s about this notion of triggering reflection, to look at something, look at the details, the process, to kind of just get lost for a moment in interaction with art work. It is a moment when you are able to connect.”

Several researchers have found that art museums help to reduce anxiety and depression.

Louvre a ‘mindful museum’

After a temporary closure because of Covid-19, the Louvre Abu Dhabi reopened in the latter half of 2020 as a ‘mindful museum’, i.e., to support the community members by sharing the healing power of art.

A museum, Bedoyan pointed out, is a space to serve the public by promoting physical, social and mental well-being.

“A museum is a space for people to come and reflect, engage, and learn something new, and find an opportunity to have a conversation.”

Since 2020, there have been a series of activities and programmes developed and offered to the general public to engage with the museum from a different angle. Initiatives included Mindful art moments (short videos on artwork), Pulse of Time (a movie to immerse people), kayaking tours around the museum (to promote fitness and well-being) and yoga sessions under the iconic dome (to impact mind, body and soul).

Marking World Mental Health Day, which falls on October 10, the Louvre Abu Dhabi held two mindful activities over the weekend: sound healing and drum circles.

A sound healing session is 60 minutes of deep relaxation and stress release as people flow with the healing energy of sound in the museum galleries. In a drum circle session, people form a collective sound through the beats of hand drums and percussion, which is led by a music scholar. Both activities were held under the dome, in the open air, where people could enjoy the nice weather and amazing architecture.

The museum is collaborating with different centres for people of determination by hosting them frequently with specific activities and volunteering opportunities and also working with senior citizens.

Impact of art on patients

Bedoyan narrated a case of a critically ill patient who was getting medical care at a hospital for a few months and almost forgot his pain on visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“He was getting a lot of medical care and wanted to visit the museum. Doctors didn’t think he would be able to do the visit beyond 20 minutes. It was planned as a quick visit, but even after two hours had passed by, the patient was very much involved with the artwork and conversations around it that he forgot about his pain. He was fully lost in that moment. That instance gave us a huge boost to keep doing the work we were doing.”

The museum is now in talks with hospitals and healthcare centres to welcome patients, caregivers, etc.

“We are aiming to engage the healthcare entities to look at how spaces like the museum can be an integral part of patients’ treatment and well-being as well,” she added.

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