Photos by Ketterman Photography
Nestled up against the St. Johns River in Riverside, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens provides a respite for those who want to stroll through the galleries or meander through the exquisite gardens to be inspired by the beauty of the natural world. Did you know that visiting the Cummer—one of the community’s top attractions—can also positively impact your health and well-being? After the past two years of pandemic struggles, there is no better time to take advantage of the documented benefits of immersing yourself in art and nature.
A recent report from the American Alliance of Museums noted that people who participate in experiences at museums consistently report positive feelings of physical, social, intellectual, and personal well-being. With its permanent collection of more than 5,000 objects, dynamic special exhibitions, and historically significant gardens, the Cummer is uniquely positioned to positively impact visitors’ mental state of mind just by inviting them to spend time with the art and gardens. Combined with its wide variety of dynamic programs and events, the museum can deeply engage visitors emotionally, intellectually, and physically—leading to a healthier and happier community.
Employees at the Cummer are working with health professionals to promote its art, beauty, nature, and cultural experiences as paths towards a full sense of wellness for the entire community. They recently convened a Wellness Steering Committee, bringing together professionals from regional healthcare organizations with museum staff to connect visitors to the mental health and wellness benefits of art and nature. From color-based feelings tours and walking meditations to building relationships with social workers and tackling transportation barriers, the committee discussed a variety of strategies that can support community-wide health and wellness.
One such experience that the museum began during the pandemic is its virtual slow-looking program, “Look at That!” Guided by staff or docents, program participants slow down to observe two to three artworks or garden scenes over the course of an hour, notice the details, and talk with others about their observations and experiences. Just this act of slowing down, looking, listening, and discussing helps visitors more mindfully experience their surroundings and be fully present in the moment. Visitors to the museum campus will experience the effects of this committee throughout the rest of 2022 and into the following years through specially designed messaging, programs, and learning tools.
Visitors can also put wellness into practice during the exhibition “Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society.” The exhibition, which opened on June 25, presents 67 masterpieces collected by the Rockefellers that illuminate the cultures and history of Asia. This collection focuses on art’s capacity to encourage cross-cultural dialogue, and the museum will present programming to coincide with the exhibition, including meditation sessions, yoga in the gardens, Tai Chi, and art-making. These programs can improve wellness in many ways while also serving as learning opportunities for an array of cultures.
As employers all over the country continue to understand the benefits of giving employees wellness days, especially to deal with the stress of post-pandemic life, there is no better way to find your center than visiting the Cummer’s two-and-a-half acres of historically significant waterfront gardens. According to a recent study published by the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, spending just 20 minutes in an outdoor public space is enough to improve your happiness and well-being.