The Benefits of Art Making/ Thank you MWC for funding Senior Art Lab next fall

by Joan Clifford, Executive Director


Artists of all kinds have known the therapeutic benefits of art forever. Young artists like Malcolm Rodenhiser, who took an art camp called Alchemical Drawing at the Milton Art Center taught by Mairead Dambruch this past week said that drawing calms him down. Malcolm, a 3rd grader, said a typical day for him after school is to do a little homework, watch a bit of TV, do a little drawing and then he heads outside to play with his friends. Malcolm says he draws almost every day. Sophie Samara, a 6th grader, said she spends up to an hour every day after school drawing and painting. Sophie noted that she is taking drama in school but wishes her schedule included art this year. Cecilia Bergan, a 2nd grader, wants to be an artist and an astronaut when she grows up because she likes learning about space. All of the children at art camp agreed that the one improvement they would make if they were in charge at school is to have no homework. 


Drawing is also what all the students have in common, they all said they do it every day. As reported in the New York Times, a recent article, “Working With Your Hands Is Good for Your Brain,” by Markham Heid who interviewed a few researchers such as Dr. Audrey Van der Meer, a professor of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, whose research notes that writing and drawing, which involve fine motor control of the hands, seem to engage and exercise the brain more than typing on a keyboard. Dr Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Richmond, who studies effort-based rewards, believes that working with our hands might be uniquely gratifying. She notes that knitting, gardening, drawing and coloring are associated with cognitive and emotional benefits, including improvements in memory and attention, as well as reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms. These studies are not conclusive; researchers also speculated that it could be attributed to mindfulness, activities that are repeated and rhythmic are calming, like meditation.


A growing movement being explored in the United States, after being adopted in more than 20 other countries is a practice called social prescribing. Social prescribing involves healthcare providers referring patients to non-medical activities or services, such as community centers, to address their social, emotional, and psychological needs. Doctors are prescribing nature walks, volunteering, art and dance classes. This, in addition to using the model of the happiest country in the world for the past few years, Finland, who attributes many factors of why they are ranked the happiest, cites one of the factors, lifelong learning, and the community centers where residents get together at low cost to learn new skills helps improve health and well-being outcomes by connecting people, is what the Milton Art Center is using as a model for new programming. 


The Milton Art Center is very grateful to the Milton Woman’s Club who recently funded the art center for a new program starting next fall, called Senior Art Lab, a daytime weekly art program for seniors. This innovative, free program allows the Milton Art Center the ability to offer the benefits of art making and socializing with friends, to a wider group to make a greater impact of improving daily life through the arts. We are excited to find out if this free program, mindful of social prescribing, could make a positive difference in our community. We are very grateful to get started on this new opportunity funded by the Milton Woman’s Club co-presidents Deanna Seymourian and Carole Kussmann, the MWC board of directors, and all the members. Thank you Suzette Stranding for shaping this new program and for publicity.


The Milton Art Center anticipates growing this program, Art Labs, to other age groups and are looking for businesses and foundations who may be interested in sponsoring Teen Art Lab and Kids Art Lab for children. 


The Milton Art Center would also like to thank the Milton Junior Woman’s Club whom we were saddened to learn recently has made the difficult decision to disband. We thank the Milton Junior Woman’s Club  for their generous donation and all the decades of work their many members throughout the years have contributed to the vitality of life in Milton. 


Every single woman in both these organizations has a story of volunteerism, dedicating their time, energy and expertise to make a difference for the greater good in Milton. The Milton Art Center is grateful to both these women’s organizations for recognizing the service we offer and we recognize the decades of community building you have contributed to enrich Milton, our home.