Art by prescription: art therapy booms in France

A new dedicated pavilion at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris will be another sign of this fashion fad. Although examples of art therapy practice often appear not in the capital, but in regions, for example, in Lille.

The Palais de Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris will close its 20th anniversary celebrations this December with the opening of a new “art therapy center” that will run programs that promote art as an excellent medium for healing and wellness.

Pavilion with an area of ​​700 sq. m will be built on the ground floor by Freaks Architects. It will be called HAMO, which is consonant with the French word hameau, meaning “village”. According to Tanguy Pelletier, director of the museum for public programs, it should be “a transformation chamber, a tool for adjusting the visitor experience and expanding the audience to include people with disabilities or representatives of national communities, even during periods when exhibitions are not held in the building “.

Funded in part by philanthropist Jonathan C.S. Choi, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Sunwah Group, the project includes three main spaces. In the Salon of Positive, it is planned to hold meetings with psychiatrists, art therapists, teachers and other specialists. What follows are three modular revolving wall structures that can be used as TV screens or chalkboards, depending on the event. A spiral staircase and an elevator lead to the mezzanine, which will house a laboratory with 3D printers and other equipment. It will be possible to hold from four to six master classes at the same time in the pavilion. A €1 million project launched in late 2018 focuses on mental health; its concept is based on the museum’s long-standing partnership with medical and social organizations. The creators of HAMO were also inspired by the art therapy workshop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, created in 2016. However, Pelletier says the Palais de Tokyo has learned “much more” through collaborations with local organizations such as France Alzheimer and the Salpêtrière.

Art therapy is shown even to the youngest museum visitors.

HAMO is the first project at the intersection of art and wellness, built on the territory of a cultural center in France, although the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille was a pioneer in this direction. This is the only French museum with a full-time art therapist. According to Juliette Barthelemy, head of community programs, the idea was implemented in 2012 as a support for employees with autism. As a result, art therapist Pascaline Bonnave “became such a valuable asset to our team that we hired her a year later.”

In parallel, the Louvre in Lens, a regional museum satellite of the famous Parisian institution, in collaboration with two art therapists from the association L’Art & Fact, recently launched Louvre Therapy, a series of workshops based on the idea that the museum experience itself can be good for health. “If only we could convince doctors to prescribe a visit to the Louvre in Lance like any other treatment!” says Gunilla Lapointe, who is in charge of the program. She notes that similar experience already exists in Canada and Belgium.


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