Can a museum trip make you healthier?
Arts and cultural activities contribute to a healthy, connected community, according to research on the subject. A study of close to 11,000 students in Arkansas demonstrated that school field trips to cultural institutions had noticeable benefits. Students who visited an art museum had:
- Enhanced critical thinking skills
- Enhanced historical empathy
- More tolerance towards those with different opinions
- Greater interest in visiting art museums in the future
The benefit in these four areas for disadvantaged students was two to three times higher than the total sample of students.
A study done at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practices showed that exposure to arts and culture also improved health, safety and well-being for those living in less prosperous neighborhoods of New York City. A review of other studies showed that engagement with the arts can enhance mood and decrease anxiety. It can even reduce hospital stays and help with chronic pain by decreasing the need for narcotic pain medication.
In recognition of this fact, Cape Cod Healthcare is a major contributor, for the first two years, of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod’s Access program, which connects economically disadvantaged children between the ages of 7 and 17 to artistic and cultural opportunities in the region.
“Exposure to a variety of creative outlets and opportunities helps foster health in every way and at every stage of life,” said Michael Lauf, president and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare. “They should be available to everyone, regardless of their economic circumstances.”
Lauf was named honorary chair of the Arts Foundation’s “Prelude to Summer” event on June 6 at the Hyannisport Club. The annual event is a fundraiser for AFCC and serves as a precursor to their largest annual fundraiser and concert, the Citizen’s Bank Pops by the Sea on August 11.
“Lauf was a natural choice for the honor because of Cape Cod Healthcare’s support of the Arts Foundation’s Access program,” said AFCC executive director Julie Wake.
“I knew after our initial meeting that Michael understood the arts are not just nice, they are absolutely necessary for healthy and vibrant communities,” Wake said.
When Wake met with Lauf to tell him about the AFCC Access Program, he quickly agreed it was a great program to support. The program works in partnership with health and human service organizations that work with families like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Y Achievers, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and some of the local school systems.
Lauf gave an inspirational speech at Prelude to Summer, according to Wake. He cited the significance of more than 200 people showing up at the event to illustrate how our region can use the arts as a catalyst for positive change for the next generation of children.
“How can we sit and gather as a society and help kids find creative outlets that will allow them to develop emotionally and intellectually and allow them to be better people?” Lauf asked the audience. “That’s what our future should be about.”
Because of Cape Cod Healthcare’s donation, the AFCC was able to launch their Access program and begin to connect area youth with artistic and cultural activities. The next step will be to provide transportation funding for whole classrooms to attend the theater, the symphony, museums and other artistic collections on the Cape. Transportation has frequently been a barrier for many economically challenged schools.
The non-profit organization Americans for the Arts shows the following social impacts of the arts:
- One dollar of spending on after school arts programs saves nine dollars on other costs by reducing welfare and crime costs, improving academic performance and increasing kids’ earning potential.
- Kids who are exposed to the arts are more than twice as likely to graduate from college as those with no arts education.
- Low-income students who participate in the arts both in school and after school have a drop-out rate of just four percent, which is five times lower than their peers without exposure to the arts.
- Seventy-eight percent of young adults who were exposed to the arts were more likely to vote or participate in political campaigns.
- Students who participate in the arts or music classes for four years average almost 100 points higher on their SAT scores than students with only a half of a year or less.
- Participation in after-school arts programs causes juvenile crime to fall by 4.2 percent on average and 5.4 percent in lower-income cities.
“It’s definitely been qualified and quantified that the arts really are an important part of a healthy connected community,” Wake said. “We’re grateful for the partnership with Cape Cod Healthcare. It’s wonderful to have these unexpected community partners. Crossing over into other sectors really shows the impact that we all can make together. To me, it’s great to see that Cape Cod Healthcare knows that the arts are important to our community.”
For a list of more than 75 museums on Cape Cod, visit capecodmuseumtrail.com.