Health and Wellbeing

Silent Coast, Peter Lanyon, 1957

Art can help us learn, express ourselves and be well. It enables us to see things from a different perspective and feel connected to the people and world around us. We can learn about mindfulness and other wellbeing skills through creativity and engaging with art.  

Come to Manchester Art Gallery. Feed your soul in the heart of the city.

Marcus Coates, Sea Mammal, 2003 Health and Wellbeing

Using art to be healthy

Modern life is demanding and stressful. Many of us live and work under systems that have been around for a long time and are bad for our mental health. Let’s face it, it’s a struggle to stay well in the 21st Century. It’s important to recognise that whilst many of these societal challenges and barriers are out of our control, there are some actions we can take that can help us navigate them and protect our mental health.

Over time and with regular care we can learn wellbeing skills and develop resilience. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or life changing – small changes really can make a big difference.

Come to our beautiful galleries and learn creative and practical skills to look after and improve your mental health.

Lucien Freud Girl with Beret

Room to Breathe

Visit our next exploration into how the gallery can be a place for people to learn and practice mindfulness. Continuing on from the success of And Breathe…, we’re offering you the chance to enjoy art in a mindful way. The art, environment and interpretation have all been developed to enable you to slow down and be mindful in the space. Over the year we’ll showcase a variety of artworks from our collection that haven’t been on display before – but only one or two at a time. We encourage you to put your phone away, to savour time with the artwork and notice what happens.

This is a room to breathe, to rest, to recover. This is a room for you.

Room to Breathe
Doves by Hepworth 1942-91

A mindful look – Barbara Hepworth, Doves

Lucien Freud Girl with Beret

A mindful look – Lucian Freud, Girl with Beret

Frank Auerbach, Head of E.O.W III

A mindful look – Frank Auerbach, Head of E.O.W III

Marcus Coates, Sea Mammal, 2003 Health and Wellbeing

Stay Well Sounds

Sit and look at one work of art for 30 minutes. Sit back and let our health and wellbeing manager guide you in exploring artworks using mindfulness.

Check out our SoundCloud page for some health and wellbeing audio we recorded in lockdown.

Listen here

Audio Guide

This 10-minute audio guides you in using mindfulness techniques to engage with art. The audio was created by community mental health groups Creative Living Centre, Start in Manchester, and Charlestown Community Primary school, in partnership with National Portrait Gallery.

Self Portrait, Sir Antony Van Dyck, 1640-1.

Listen to the guide and try the technique with any artwork on display. 

Listen here
Lubaina Himid, The Tailor crop

Looking with Mindfulness – Lubaina Himid, The Tailor

Derek Wilkinson, Still Life, 1961

Looking with Mindfulness – Derek Wilkinson, Still Life

Jan Van Huysum, Still Life:Flowers & Fruit

Looking with Mindfulness – Jan Van Huysum, Still Life Flowers and Fruit, c1700-1720

Looking with Mindfulness - Paul Gaugin, Harbour Scene, Dieppe, 1885-86 Impressionist style painting of a harbour

Looking with Mindfulness – Paul Gaugin, Harbour Scene, Dieppe, 1885-86

Room to Breathe

Room to Breathe the research project

We are excited to be teaming up with psychologists from Goldsmiths, University of London to explore whether mindful viewing can deepen personal connection to art and reduce stress.

In this film gallery and university staff talk about the study and what they are curious to find out.

Filmed by Jessica Wild.

Doves by Hepworth 1942-91

Working with artists and partner organisations in the health sector, we champion creative learning in an environment that’s stimulating, supportive and inspiring.

We create space for people to connect with art, ignite their curiosity and develop their confidence. Delivering research programmes has shown us the evidence that accessing culture can have a life-changing impact on a person’s health and wellbeing.

Through our projects we:

  • Connect with our communities
  • Learn together
  • Create conditions that enable mindfulness and social connection
  • Encourage creative experimentation and imagination
  • Help people find inspiration through art
  • Demonstrate that art can change lives

Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait

The Art of Looking: a partnership project with National Portrait Gallery 

Manchester primary schools and community mental health groups build emotional resilience through mindfulness and art projects.

Mark Francis, Release

A guide for mental health workers 

We know that coming to an art gallery or any unfamiliar space can be daunting for lots of people.

Thats why weve worked with healthcare professionals and service users to come up with some tips to make your group visit as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Recent studies have shown that visiting an art gallery can have a positive impact on a persons health and wellbeing.

We invite healthcare professionals and community leaders to use our art and spaces to help promote positive health and wellbeing.  

Resource for recovery 

Visiting an art gallery can enable people to connect with others, increase self-esteem, and once again feel part of the community.

The experience can give a sense of achievement and autonomy, and help develop confidence and spark curiosity.

Cornelia Parker Object That Fell Off The White Cliffs Of Dover, 1992 Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London

Before your visit 

What happens if I feel overwhelmed and want to leave? 

Discuss with your group any concerns they may have about coming to an art gallery.

In the past, groups have asked questions such as, Will there be lots of people? Will I be expected to say or do anything? What if I want to leave? Answer these as best you can. You know your group best.  If there’s anything youre unsure about, you can always give us a call.

Busy times 

During the week, we have visits from schools, so if you and your group are looking for a quieter, less busy time to visit, its better to come after 3pm, on weekends, or on Thursday evenings.

Quiet room 

We understand that all sorts of things can be triggers for challenging emotions. If you think someone in your group might need access to a quiet room, please get in touch and well do our best to reserve a private space for you.

Getting started 

Why not pick a theme before your visit – something youre interested in as a group – then set each other the challenge to see how many artworks you can find that link to that theme. Previous groups have chosen things like nature, opposites, Manchester and even the colour blue.

Exploring the gallery 

Theres no rush. Take your time.

Ask one of our friendly Visitor Services staff about whats on. We often hold free lunchtime talks and workshops.

Getting around 

Its a large building with lots to see, so taking the lift to the top floor and working your way down can be a less tiring way to get around.

Explore the architecture. The gallery is made up of 19th and 21st century architecture. Can you spot where old meets new? Which do you prefer?

Looking at art 

Get creative. Use your imagination. Be curious.

We encourage our visitors to talk openly and say what they think about art. Talking about art is just starting a conversation like any other.

So, ask each other questions. What do you think of it? What does it remind you of? Describe it one word. What does it tell us about the artist? Remember, theres no right or wrong answer.

Take notice 

Did you know that, on average, people stand in front of art for around 15 seconds? Try looking at an artwork for 5 whole minutes, taking your time to notice detail. You might be surprised!

The Lion’s Den

The Lion’s Den at the Clore Art Studio is a creative space for everyone to use, right in the heart of our building. There’s no ‘right’ way to interact with the space. It’s for all our visitors to explore, play in and enjoy. Need help getting started? Just ask one of our friendly studio volunteers.

An Op-Art painting of curved white, pink green and blue vertical stripes

After your visit 

Keep talking 

Art often acts as a springboard for discussion, giving people the opportunity to talk about issues they may find difficult to bring up on their own.

Were always here 

Dont forget, theres lots to discover at Manchester Art Gallery. You dont have to see everything in one visit. Come back and explore a different part of the gallery together next time.

Contact us 

We want you to feel confident about visiting us with your group, so if there’s anything youre not sure about, get in touch.