by Beth Shepard    Beth's profile on LinkedIn  

The Arts at Work - Cultivate Creativity, Inspire Well-Being

From painting, piano playing, and photography to singing, sewing, and scrapbooking, participating in the arts offers an undeniable well-being boost. Chances are many in your workplace already enjoy these outlets for self-expression or are interested in trying them. Studies confirm the benefits of participating in visual, performing, literary, and creative arts. Why not promote them as part of your well-being program?


Color Me Healthy

A large body of evidence underscores the mental and physical advantages of active participation in the arts. A few highlights:


  • Low-income urban communities with more cultural resources rate higher in health, personal security, and school effectiveness1
  • Small daily acts of creativity appear to enhance overall well-being2
  • People 85 and older who engage in creative activities are 45% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment3
  • Visual art production is linked with greater brain connectivity and psychological resilience4
  • Music promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety, and calms physiologic and emotional stress5
  • Writing about emotional topics has beneficial effects on immune function and promotes long-term improvement in mood.6

So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.

— Aaron Copland

Learning artistic skills fosters confidence, enjoyment, and problem solving. Drawing, dancing, woodworking, and other art forms give people a way to express and process feelings that are tough to put into words… from grief and pain to profound happiness. Engaging in art is also an excellent way to practice mindfulness; when you’re playing guitar, writing a poem, or crafting a quilt, your focus can’t help but be right there, in the moment. Artistic expression also promotes connection; participating in a community play or creating a hand-made wooden whistle as a gift, for example.


10 Ways to Bring the Arts to Work

Healthy, happy, creative employees are good for business. Help your population flourish by integrating the arts into your work environment:


  • Hold an art show or establish a rotating exhibit of employee-created artwork.
  • Form art-based affinity groups that can meet outside of work hours or during lunch… a jazz combo or knitting group, for example.
  • Promote community-based arts opportunities: writer’s workshops, photography contests, dance classes.
  • Organize an employee poetry reading during lunch or after-hours in a local coffeehouse.
  • Designate an art corner with supplies to encourage creative thinking and expression.
  • Put a piano or guitar in the break room.
  • Offer discounted tickets for local theaters, museums, symphony, and choir performances; encourage patronage of school musicals, concerts, and art shows.
  • Stage an artisan-themed holiday gift bazaar featuring employee-crafted items like fused glass, pottery, framed photography, yarn work, and mosaics.
  • Advertise arts-related group volunteer opportunities.
  • Bring in local artists to offer tips, lessons, or resources.

All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.

— Maya Angelou

Art, in all its forms, is an indelible expression of the human experience. Weaving it into the fabric of work culture is an important way to lift employees’ spirits, foster well-being, and make your organization itself feel a little more connected and human.




1Posey, J. (2017) Penn study shows value of arts and culture on health and well-being. Penn Current,  3/16/17m penncurrent.upenn.edu/features/penn-study-shows-value-of-arts-and-culture-on-health-and-wellbeing

2Suttie, J. (2017) Doing Something Creative Can Boost Your Well-Being. Greater Good Science Center, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/doing_something_creative_can_boost_your_well_being

3Roberts, R, et. al. (2015), Risk and protective factors for cognitive impairment in persons aged 85 years and older.Neurology May 5, 2015 vol. 84 no. 18 1854-1861 neurology.org/content/84/18/1854

4Bolwerk, A, Mack-Andrick, J, Lang, F, Dorfler, A, Maihofner, C (2014). How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity. PLOS ONE 9(12): e116548, dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0101035

5Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254–263. doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

6Pennebaker, J, (1997). Writing about Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process. Psychological Science, Vol. 8, No. 3 (May, 1997), pp. 162-166.jstor.org/stable/40063169 .

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