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Researchers: Do Art Lovers Live Longer



“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh.

Source: Public Domain

People who engage in arts-related cultural activities such as going to museums or musical concerts may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, according to a new study by researchers from University College London (UCL).

The UCL researchers found a substantial reduction in early mortality among older adults who engaged in cultural activities. After a variety of confounding factors (e.g., socioeconomics, occupational status) were taken into account, those who participated in cultural activities “every few months or more” had a 31 percent lower risk of premature death.

This “arts engagement and mortality” analysis spanned 14 years and involved nearly 7,000 older adults. Study participants self-reported the frequency of their arts engagement and cultural activities such as going to museums, art galleries, concerts, and the theater.

These findings (Fancourt & Steptoe, 2019) were published on December 18 in the “Express Yourself” Christmas issue of The BMJ. The British Medical Journal’s Xmas issue is an annual tradition that features peer-reviewed scientific research that is a bit more whimsical and quirky than typical BMJ content. In 2012, a New York Times article described BMJ’s holiday tradition as offering “lighthearted but rigorous scholarship.”

Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe co-authored this paper. The authors are quick to point out that these observational findings linking cultural activities and early mortality are correlative. To be clear: This research does not establish a causal link between frequent arts engagement and living longer.

As would be expected, part of the link between longevity and arts engagement is attributable to the socioeconomic advantages of those who have the leisure time and financial resources to engage in cultural activities regularly.

That said, Fancourt and Steptoe report that arts engagement may have a protective association with longevity that transcends socioeconomics or occupational status. According to the authors, “This association might be partly explained by differences in cognition, mental health, and physical activity among those who do and do not engage in the arts, but remains even when the model is adjusted for these factors.”

 10.1136/bmj.l6377/Creative Commons

Survivor function, which shows survival age by frequency of receptive arts engagement when adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, health related, behavioural, and social confounding factors.

Source: Fancourt and Steptoe, The BMJ (2019) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.l6377/Creative Commons

The co-authors of this paper are transparent about sharing counter viewpoints that cast doubt on the impact that the arts may have on extending longevity. “Some research has proposed that the universality of art and the strong emotional responses it induces are indications of its association with evolutionary adaptations, while other research has questioned whether art is an evolutionary parasite, with no particular evolutionary benefits to our species,” Fancourt and Steptoe write.

8 Ways Arts Engagement and Cultural Activities May Be Linked to Longevity

  1. Alleviates chronic stress and depression by facilitating face-to-face social interactions.
  2. Enhances social capital, which builds individual and collective resources.
  3. Reduces perceived social isolation and loneliness.
  4. Promotes emotional intelligence, boosts social perception, and may increase empathy. These factors are linked to a better chance of survival.
  5. Increases physical activity and reduces sedentary behaviors, which benefits psychological and physical well-being.
  6. May increase having a stronger sense of purpose in life, which is associated with better immune function and healthier lifestyle choices.
  7. Fosters creativity and imagination, which are linked to higher odds of survival throughout Homo sapiens‘ evolution.
  8. Arts-related activities, in addition to a wide range of other “leisure time” activities (e.g., gardening, having a hobby, going to church), may have a protective association with premature mortality.

Based on their most recent findings (2019), Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe posit: “There is a strong theoretical rationale that underlies the hypothesis that arts engagement could be linked to people’s chance of survival.”

In a perfect world, frequent arts engagement would be more of an equal-opportunity endeavor that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. But we don’t live in a utopian society; for many people making minimum wage (or less) arts engagement and cultural activities don’t fit into the budget.

Not All Arts Engagement and Cultural Activities Are Cost-Prohibitive

As I was growing up in Manhattan during the early-1970s, going to museums and seeing the latest Broadway plays (or off- and off-off-Broadway shows ) is what my family and friends did for fun.

At the time, participating in cultural activities became blasé. I took arts engagement for granted because it was something my friends and I did every weekend. However, with hindsight, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to be immersed in the arts and exposed to so many diverse cultural activities as a kid.

Unfortunately, in today’s economy, you’d have to be a gazillionaire to take your family to see Broadway shows on a regular basis and tickets to most cultural activities ain’t cheap. Nevertheless, most museums in New York City (and other cities) are free for children under 12 and also have “free museum days and pay what you wish” days for adults.

Today, as a much older adult in December of 2019, I still have an appreciation for the arts; but I don’t visit museums, go to plays, or participate in other cultural activities very often. However, this morning I decided that my lack of arts engagement is going to change in 2020.

After learning about all the possible benefits associated with arts engagement and cultural activities while researching the latest paper (2019) by Fancourt and Steptoe, I made a New Year’s resolution to be more of an active art lover this decade.

Maybe this year, instead of just making resolutions that involve depriving yourself of hedonistic pleasures, you’ll commit to some New Year’s resolutions that are fun—like going to see a concert or having other arts-related experiences that make you feel good and may increase your longevity?

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Artch: From abstract to accessible contemporary art | Fringe Arts – The Link



Multimedia exhibition welcomes emerging artists in Montreal

One out of three artists does not live off their art after graduating due to a lack of resources for art professionalization, according to Artch’s director Sarah Kitzy Gineau-Delyon.

Every year, Artch holds an outdoor contemporary art exhibition in Dorchester Square made for young emerging artists.

The core purpose of this organization is to support new creators with an entrepreneurship training and a platform to showcase their work. Artch’s mission is also to popularize this art form with free exhibits and cultural mediators to bridge contemporary art, which can be abstract, to the population as well as enhancing the local art market by raising awareness on its relevance.

This initiative emerged in 2018 between Art Souterrain, the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Montréal Centre-Ville, and Jack Marketing. This inclusive project is developed in collaboration with Concordia, UQÀM, the RCAAQ and the RAAV.

“Each organization brings their own set of skills so if we support young artists, promote the art market to new investors and democratize contemporary art, we will make the Montreal artistic ecosystem durable,” said Gineau-Delyon.

Resources for emerging artists
For the third edition of Artch this fall, 19 selected creators received 50 hours of artistic entrepreneurship training. This helped them understand business models according to their careers goals, how to manage an exhibit, demystify the dynamics of the art markets, learn self-promotion, build a network, and so on.

“Being an artist is like being an entrepreneur. […] There is no defined path to live the art life but a thousand ways to be an artist,” said Gineau-Delyon. Art schools promote a conceptual approach, she explained, but there is a lack of education concerning art industries. Artch’s training guides emerging artists in understanding the direction in which they wish to pursue their career.

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“Being an artist is like being an entrepreneur. […] There is no defined path to live the art life but a thousand ways to be an artist.”

In addition to this training, creators receive a $1,000 grant and the opportunity to interact with other creators which may lead to collaborations and constructive feedback since they are physically present to see the installations.

The artists were selling their work through the events and during the festival. Their pieces are available for sale on the Artch’s website.

Unlike most art galleries, Artch does not take any commission when artists are selling an art piece to encourage emerging artists to stand on their own two feet. The call for artists for next year is launched and artistic criteria are originality, innovation, risk-taking, accessibility and coherence, explained Gineau-Delyon.

Photographer Isabelle Parson, featured in the festival, is interested in the materiality of things from a poetic, scientific and philosophical perspective. Parson enjoyed interacting with the public to get feedback and exchange on attendees’ interpretations of her work. She wonders what alternative views we can find out of everyday objects.

For instance, in January she collected microbes from a tablet to cultivate them on a thin plastic layer that she replaced on the device two weeks later with a massive amount of germs. “The matter resonates,” she said. “I am sensitive to what it can evoke.”

From a post-COVID view, it is fascinating to realize how one’s interpretation of this artwork can be shaped by the pandemic context. Before, contamination was out of sight, but over time our perception of everyday objects radically changed and therefore influenced the meaning of the photo.

Democratizing elitist art
A sizeable part of the population is unfamiliar with this conceptual medium. There is a struggle of education and accessibility to interact with this type of art, acknowledged the Artch’s director. She indicated that contemporary art can be seen as elitist so one of their goals is to democratize it. Indeed, not everyone can afford entrance to museums and galleries, and fewer have the time to intellectualize an abstract piece of art.

Raising awareness on art is relevant to connect it with the street, explained Sarah-Kitzy Gineau-Delyon. This initiative has agency to promote equity.

The cultural mediators are there to help attendees connect with contemporary art through free guided tours. Their role is not to teach a subjective interpretation as well as giving a background on the artworks as traditional art guides. They make it accessible by promoting the audience’s reflections. They suggest questions such as: “How do you feel? What is that piece evoking for you?”

Dorchester Square is a free open space therefore contemporary art suddenly becomes accessible and the park’s tumult becomes a feature of this happening. There are also workshops, held online this year, to make the population mindful of this misunderstood art form which is more emotional than intellectual in the end.

Flourishing local art
Raising awareness is also meaningful to acknowledge the importance of art in the community. Dorchester Square is a strategic location for Artch because the park is grounded in the everyday life of many skyscrapers’ workers who can afford art. Raising awareness about the art market is important to motivate potential clients to invest in local creativity instead of Ikea items for instance, explained Gineau-Delyon. In order to do so, Artch held online workshops about buying artworks and introducing contemporary art.

With all those means of reinforcing Montreal-based contemporary art, they witness the impact on artists’ careers who were promoted by the organization whether they are exposed in galleries, launching solo exhibitions, or selling pieces in prestigious collections. Artch is a springboard for emerging creators.

To illustrate that, Myriam Simard Parent is a sculpture artist who was selected last year by Artch and has made a living off her art and also started a MFA in sculpture at Concordia. She is selling her work on her Instagram account which seems to be a great platform for entrepreneurship.

Every year, Artch creates opportunities for new artists to dive right into Montreal’s art scene.

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West End Art Project adds colourful pieces to Windsor's west side – Windsor Star



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A skateboard sign post and reimagined picnic tables are some of the new functional public art pieces that have recently been added to Windsor’s west side.

The West End Art Project unveiled four locally-made pieces on Friday — three at the Queen’s Dock at the foot of Mill Street, and one more at the historic Dominion House (3140 Sandwich St.).

The Queen’s Dock property belongs to the Port Authority of Windsor.

New colourful signs designed by the Vanguard Youth Arts Collective have been posted to celebrate the area, with the names of picturesque west-end neighbourhoods painted upon skateboards.

Nearby, Jessica Cook’s work All My Relations features multiple picnic tables merged into one giant, interconnected table that Queen’s Dock visitors are welcome to sit upon.

Meanwhile, Kristina Bradt’s piece Home Away From Home — a specially-painted picnic table — has been placed outside the Dominion House.

The West End Art Project is an initiative by the organization Life After Fifty, funded by the Gordie Howe International Bridge community benefits plan.

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Skateboards painted by the Vanguard Youth Arts Collective, located at the Queen’s Dock as part of the West End Art Project. Photo by West End Art Project /Windsor Star
Jessica Cook’s public art piece All My Relations – part of the West End Art Project, located at the Queen’s Dock. Photo by West End Art Project /Windsor Star
Members of the Vanguard Youth Arts Collective with a sign they created for the Queen’s Dock park as part of the West End Art Project. Photo by West End Art Project /Windsor Star

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The Art of Skincare with La Prairie – Vanity Fair



La Prairie has always been a skincare brand that has art at its core, but a new partnership with Fondation Beyeler strengthens this keen cultural connection.

Think high-performance luxury skincare and immediately La Prairie, the revered Swiss brand, comes to mind. The two are synonymous. Delve a little deeper under the skin of the lauded house, however, and you uncover something its loyal following has always known—the world of contemporary art courses through La Prairie’s veins.

The unconvinced need only take one look at the evidence. The brand’s founder, Dr. Paul Niehans, took inspiration from Bauhaus, the art movement steeped in an “art in everything” ethos, hence this sensibility is clear in everything La Prairie does. The unmistakable rich cobalt blue glass skincare jars and bottles designed by French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle; the collaborations with world-class art fairs such as Art Basel in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami, where the brand supports and commissions up-and-coming as well as established artists, raising their profile on a global scale while also previewing their latest exquisite technologically driven skincare.

This time, however, its latest launch is not a bottle of serum targeting fine lines or a depuffing eye cream. In fact, there are no products to speak of. Rather, La Prairie has joined forces with Fondation Beyeler, one of the most prestigious art institutions in Switzerland, on a two-year partnership to support the Piet Mondrian Conservation Project. This collaboration, explains Greg Prodromides, La Prairie’s Chief Marketing Officer, not only highlights the importance of conserving art for posterity, “it takes our cultural engagement to another level”.

Image may contain Interior Design Indoors Shelf Human Person and Art

Three-fold thinking behind the collaboration, says Prodromides, made this union a no-brainer. “Fondation Beyeler is another Swiss House like us that shares the same values of perfection and the quest for very high quality. It is also in line with the vision that we have: to build luxury with a higher meaning. Also, it is Piet Mondrian, an artist who has deeply influenced the expression of the house of La Prairie.” Mondrian, famed for his abstract geometric paintings, is widely considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century; when you consider his influence across the world of design, culture and fashion, it’s an accolade that cannot be argued with. Fondation Beyeler, the museum founded by Ernst Beyeler—the art collector and dealer behind Art Basel—holds one of the most prestigious collections of Mondrians in Switzerland.

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Fondation Beyeler


A paean to modern and contemporary art, it carries more than 400 Post-Impressionist, classical modern and contemporary works. This is why the temporary exhibitions, held three to four times a year—think pioneering artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Henri Matisse, Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso—see art lovers flock in from far and wide.

In 2022, the highly anticipated subject of choice will be Mondrian, and the institution is tasked with conserving four of his minimalist artworks—Tableau No 1; Composition with Yellow and Blue; Composition with Double Line and Blue; and Lozenge Composition with Eight Lines and Red. It is a task Marcus Gross, the Head of Conservation at Fondation Beyeler, sees not simply as a vocation, but as a calling and responsibility. “Our mission is the long-term preservation of art, hence we do very deep research on the technique and materials used by the artist and the condition of the artwork.”

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Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow and Blue, 1932. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel.

Robert Bayer

A remarkable commitment to conserving inimitable artworks is something the conservators at Fondation Beyeler are famed for. It is an intensive, holistic approach, which involves studying, documenting, analysing and, essentially, going beyond the perfunctory in order to display the original intention of the artist. Just like the technologically advanced, groundbreaking skincare formulas that La Prairie has built its reputation on, science, explains Gross, “plays a very important role. By using various scientific techniques and equipment, we are able to decide exactly how to preserve artworks in the future”.

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It is impossible to detach the role of conservation from the future of art, hence, explains Ulrike Erbsloh, Managing Director at Foundation Beyeler, the significance of La Prairie’s patronage. “Through this partnership,” he says, “we are able to communicate to the wider public that art conservation is absolutely crucial to artworks being preserved for future generations.”

Prodromides echoes Erbsloh’s sentiments adding, “Art is part of who we are. Our attitude, our DNA, a prism through which we look at the world. So this project is our way of contributing back to our communities and doing our part to make the world a little more beautiful, not just for today but also for the generations to come.”

Discover more at La Prairie.

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