Why is Art So Relaxing?
Exploring the ways in which art can help students slow down
By: Sylvia Rani
In a fast-paced world of deadlines and social media, the University of Minnesota can be a high-stress environment for students. Now more than ever, students are realizing the impact that stress can have on their well-being and seeking healthy ways to manage it.
The WAM Collective, the student group of the Weisman Art Museum, hosts regular study nights and yoga classes for students in the peaceful gallery space. The Weisman provides an oasis away from the pressures of the outside world. It’s a place to unwind, relax, and reset. But what is it about art in particular that makes time seem to slow down?
The Weisman utilizes PERCEIVE cards to guide viewers to a place of understanding with the art. The cards ask questions like “What do you notice? Imagine using all your senses. What feeling do you get from the image?” “What does the image make you wonder about? What more do you want to know?” By asking these questions, students can ruminate on what the art means to them. This can be done individually or with a group, and ideas can be shared to grow a collective understanding of the artwork and each other.
Besides helping students explore the art, these questions serve another purpose—getting students’ minds off of stress. “In our ever-busy, cult-of-productivity culture, we often get caught up in what we just did or what we need to do,” Katie Covey, student coordinator at WAM, said. “But viewing art slowly demands our full attention—that we live in the present moment.” Art is what the viewer decides it to be. One could go into the museum and quickly pass over each painting or sculpture, thinking little of the colors and shapes that fill the space. Or, one could go into the museum and spend hours looking at a single piece, finding respite in the brushstrokes and ascribing meaning to each curve. It is in this way that one can de-stress from the outside world while gaining an understanding of the things in front of them. For students who are under pressure by deadlines and exams, the museum offers a tranquil setting where the present moment is the only moment that matters.