November 8, 2023

Positive Impact of the Arts on Health Explored by Coalition of Cultural Groups

By Anne Levin

Coming out of COVID-19, the leaders of local arts organizations were looking for a way to recharge their programs and get patrons back into theaters, concert halls, museums, and other cultural venues. From their conversations, a common denominator emerged: the significant relationship between arts and health.

It so happens that the National Organization for Arts and Health recognizes November as Arts and Health Month. With that in mind, a coalition of nine arts groups formed Arts & Health Mercer, which had its official debut at the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness and Wellness Center in Hamilton Township on Saturday, November 4.

Throughout the month, members — Art Against Racism, the Arts Council of Princeton, McCarter Theatre, Morven Museum and Garden, Princeton Public library, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University Concerts, and West Windsor Arts — are presenting programming with a connection to health and well-being.

“We were meeting regularly to share our resources and information, especially through the pandemic,” said Aylin Green, executive director of West Windsor Arts. “As we talked about our programs, we found that many of us had been exploring the intersection of arts and health, really digging in to the ways we could support our community coming out of the pandemic and reconnect. We wanted to do something collaboratively. This was the theme that made sense to us.”

Events listed on range from “Drop in and Knit” at Princeton Public Library to “Healing from Cancer through Music with Suleika Jaouad, writer, and Jon Batiste, musician.” In between, there are yoga classes at Mercer County Community College, exhibits at the Arts Council of Princeton, a live art-making class at the Princeton University Art Museum’s 11 Hulfish Street location, a meditation workshop at West Windsor Arts, and more.

“Everything listed on the website has a health component,” said Green. “This includes mental health, and physical health. Reports have been coming out about how participation in the arts can positively impact recovery.”

Green has seen this first hand, via West Windsor Arts’ partnership with the cancer treatment program at Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health. “We’ve brought in art projects for patients to do while they’re undergoing treatment. We did an art kit where we provided all the materials they would need to create something. The feedback we got was about how it not only got their minds off of what they were going through, but it allowed them to create works of art as gifts during holiday time, when they might not have had the time or energy to go buy things.”

Last Saturday’s event at RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center began with opening remarks by James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum; presentations by the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum and Art Against Racism, and interactive workshops for all ages.

A full calendar of programming is available at

“We formed Arts & Health Mercer to provide opportunities for everyone in our community to engage in the arts,” Green said in a release from the coalition. “No experience is necessary, just a desire to tap into your creative side and immerse yourself, even for an hour or two, in music, theater, painting, whatever it is that brings you joy and encourages expression.”