Written by Houghton Kinsman, Adult Education Coordinator

If the pandemic has taught me anything in my work at the Museum, it is that self-care, empathy, and compassion are more important than ever.

When I joined the Crocker back in October of 2019 (two years ago already?!), I had never done yoga, never meditated, and I didn’t even remotely understand the concept of sound healing. But, as the Adult Education Coordinator, I inherited a strong foundation of programs created by my predecessor, and I did what I knew best as an educator: I leaned into learning.

Two years later, and now my wife enjoys a good chuckle when I put on my headphones, open the Calm app, and meditate just before bed. Though, I enjoy the last laugh, as she now joins me in ending our Sundays with a little yoga in preparation for the week ahead.

I suppose telling you all this is my way of saying that, while I may not be Gwyneth Paltrow goop-level status, I have learned firsthand through the Crocker’s wellness programming that there are real, tangible benefits to participating in mindfulness activities and self-care practices. The only reason I subscribe to Calm or roll out the yoga mats on Sunday is because programs like Slow Art, Art Rx, Artful Meditation, and Sound Healing with Yoga served as an accessible entry point for me to wellness practices that I would have never tried on my own.

I may not have understood what I was embarking on when I took over the Art + Wellness suite, but I certainly sensed how important these programs were for the Crocker. And, the Museum is not alone in these endeavors; art museums across the country seem to see the value, too.

Since the Summer of 2020, I’ve participated in working groups for the Coalition for Arts, Heritage, and Wellbeing. These groups consist of colleagues from institutions of all sizes including the National Gallery of Art in D.C, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Miami, the National Organization for Arts and Health (NOAH), MoMA New York, Museum of Wisconsin Art, and numerous others nationwide. Each month, we convened to discuss restorative art programs in the criminal justice system, experiences that champion creative aging, and initiatives that help healthcare providers combat stress and enhance empathy skills. I also shared the impact of our own signature wellness programs, ArtRX and Artful Meditation, which were started in collaboration with Dr. Ian Koebner and the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of California, Davis in 2014. Hearing about and discussing all the innovative work museum educators are doing at the intersection of art, healthcare, mindfulness, and well-being has been inspiring.

These multi-museum working groups are a direct result of the pandemic. They were established early on to connect GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) around art and wellness, and they are one of the few positives to emerge from this difficult time. The shared sense of togetherness has strengthened my resolve to grow these initiatives, and I often leave these Coalition conversations with the same feeling I have after Art Rx; the only way I can describe it is something akin to a goodness in my soul. The Oxford dictionary has a definition of “goodness” as “nourishing.” Perhaps that is more apt.

My biggest takeaway from this process is that the Museum must enhance the programs we offer and how we offer them within our Art + Wellness suite. The Crocker’s Education staff, led by Director of Education Stacey Shelnut-Hendrick, recognize this pressing need. We must diversify our wellness offerings and refine our existing programs in order to better meet the needs our communities in the City of Trees. Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we can begin this new chapter.

This year, the Museum will implement a one-year initiative, Crocker Together, designed to combat loneliness, social isolation, and other effects from a world turned categorically upside down. Working with a network of community partners, including UC Davis Division of Pain Medicine and Chill Sacramento, the Museum will offer free, ongoing, specialized art and wellness programs designed to reach community members in person and virtually. Think of the Museum as poised to be an alternative wellness center; like your gym, yoga studio, or group discussion sessions. We want to support you.

While we are not venturing into the criminal justice or hospital systems (yet!), a new schedule and tenor of Art + Wellness programs kicks off this month. The revamped suite will combine old favorites Mindfulness in the Galleries, Artful Meditation, and Sound Healing— alongside new programs focused on grounding health, well-being, sensory input, and social interaction. These new additions will include film screenings, talks, and special presentations, all with the intention to help us gain a stronger understanding of what it means to be healthy in body and soul.

Art + Soul Sundays will populate the Museum calendar every 4th Sunday of the month. These programs are free to all, but space is limited and advance registration required.

This year, put yourself first and spend your self-care Sunday with us at the Crocker.

You deserve it.

We all deserve it.

If you are interested in learning more about the work museums are doing around art and wellness, a good place to begin is The Journal of Museum Education, who assigned an entire volume to the topic in 2016 entitled, Health and Wellness in Our Communities: The Impact of Museums. You can also follow the Coalition on Facebook or attend one of NOAH’s upcoming conferences.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services CAGML-248194-OMLS-21.

The Crocker Art Museum is committed to reducing barriers and increasing accessibility to the Museum and art experiences. The Art Access initiative provides programs and services to help ensure art is available to everyone.