Is Joe Suggesting What I Think He Is Suggesting?!?!!!

I saw a social media post by Dan Pink today that linked to an NPR story about a program where doctors in Canada can prescribe spending time outdoors and have been provided year long passes to Canada’s national parks they can give to patients.  Unfortunately there are only about 100 passes available.

The story helped me recall other culture pass programs I had written about before like the one in Italy and the Interrail pass for young people that the European Union was sponsoring to encourage them to broaden their horizons through tourism. (And actually still do, even through Covid from what I can see.)

The park pass idea got me thinking that there might be value in a similar program where arts organizations might use tickets and passes distributed through health care channels versus social media and radio giveaways. Yes, the intent of giveaways via media is to raise awareness and a fear of missing out in the larger community so giving tickets away through healthcare channels doesn’t really serve that objective.

There can be value in having an arts organization publicly announcing, “We think it is important that you take care of your physical and mental health so we have provided passes to X clinic/health system to help you try to live your life better.” It can only bolster the perception of the beleaguered healthcare industry to have other entities taking action to support them.

“But waaaiiiiitttt just a minute there, Joe,” you say. “I have been reading your blog for years now and you keep talking about how the prescriptive view of the arts is super problematic. Now you are literally advocating for arts prescriptions.”

You are absolutely right, there is a danger of this sort of program being misinterpreted in that manner which is why it would be important for everyone to communicate very clearly that this is a prescription to spend time together with family and friends. The shared experience rather than specifically the art is what will help them.  We already know that the shared time is one of the things that people value about cultural experiences.  There is also a somewhat implied idea that sitting at home watching TV has not been benefiting your well-being which might contribute to a shift of mindset about arts and cultural over the long term.

Right now this is a germ of an idea. There would need to be further discussion and study about whether a program of this type could be beneficial and what the best approach might be. There has to be a sincere desire to provide a positive experience for people, (so work to solve other negative experiences like parking), rather than use this as a cynical ploy to increase attendance.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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