I have been extremely busy preparing for the sponsor reception capping off a $3 million facility renovation at my day job. (It really well tonight, thankfully)
I wanted to briefly call attention to an article Michael Rushton cited about the literal prescriptive use of the arts. What caught my eye was the following sentence:
Doctors will each be able to assign up to 50 museum prescriptions over the course of the pilot project.
Rushton quotes an article in the Montreal Gazette that conflates benefits observed formal arts therapy programs with self directed museum visits.
Rushton goes on to point out the problems inherent in making this comparison:
My problem with these sorts of stories, though, is not just the hyperbole. It’s about what it says about “art”. The story has not one single mention of any work of art these doctors’ patients might encounter at the MMFA (save for a photo indicating there is a Calder retrospective currently on exhibition). The actual works have no importance, it’s just “art”, or, as they say, whatever. The museum is a place with hallways and rooms that have framed pieces of canvas with paint on them hung from the walls.
And we can see why this is the approach, for what if we did pay attention to what art? What happens if researchers discover (as we know they ultimately will) that impressionist works increase the viewers’ levels of cortisol and serotonin more than do works of post-expressionism? That landscapes generate more hormone secretion than abstract works? Will doctors then start to advise the museum on its curatorial policies? Will the arts council?
…A part of the hidden, evil genius of “economic impact” studies was to embed the claim right from the start that the actual art itself doesn’t matter at all, so long as money is spent on it. But I don’t see how advocacy on health benefits, or empathy, or entrepreneurial creativity, would be able to get away with that.