By Joey Phoenix
This past Winter, The Peabody Essex Museum launched its new wellness initiative: Being Well, which seeks to improve the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of local and global communities through mindfulness, movement, meditation, art-making, and storytelling.
Being Well was created by Bethany Beatrice (she/her/hers – Manager of Public Programs), Danielle Olsen (she/her/hers – Associate Director of Education and Civic Engagement), and the greater programs team. It was officially released this year during February school vacation week.
“[Being Well] really came from a place of personal challenges around wellness both at home also in our work,” said Bethany Beatrice, “It led to a lot of empathy for the challenges faced by our Salem community, our greater community, and to thinking about PEM programming can support the community through all of this.”
One of the initial ways the Peabody Essex Museum began to encourage community members to focus on wellness was by bringing yoga into the PEM galleries. The museum partnered with Salem-based yoga studio The Salty Buddha for sessions beginning in Fall of 2020.
“The Salty Buddha has always been greatly invested in the wellness of our Salem community, both as small business owners looking to find ways to connect and provide opportunities to their existing audience, but also extending that to others who wanted to take part,” Beatrice said.
The yoga sessions are hybrids, meaning that there was a select number of in-person attendees as well as a virtually streamed option. They were hosted in the peaceful, meditative exhibit by Anila Quayyum Agha entitled All the Flowers are for Me.
The next event will be on May 2nd at 9:00am. Limited spots are available so it is recommended that attendees register well in advance. Click here to register.
It can be argued that “Breathe” was the word which defined 2020. With the challenges of COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, and the increasingly important need for personal wellness, holding space for breath, meditation, and mindfulness became a high priority for the Peabody Essex Museum this past Fall and Winter.
A prime example of this is the new exhibit entitled Breath by British artist Zarah Hussain (she/her/hers). In a series of paintings commissioned by PEM, Hussain explores the universal sanctity and necessity of breathing. Mining her own reflections and experiences, she integrates the personal stories of members from our community who have, in some way, experienced the physical trauma of losing their breath or its transformative healing power.
“Breath is an exploration of the act of inhalation and exhalation expressed through a geometric visual Installation,” said Beatrice. “The exhibit is incredibly personal for the artist, who faced a traumatic respiratory injury just prior to the start of the pandemic. And that, plus COVID and the protests – with George Floyd saying ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and the reckoning that came after – really informed our decision to center this exhibit for the initiative.
“Hussain’s work lies at the intersection of science and spirituality and melds ancient traditions of meditation and breathwork with contemporary technology” says Siddhartha V. Shah (he/him/his – PEM’s Director of Education and Civic Engagement and Curator of South Asian Art) in a press release about the exhibition.
“We hope visitors will accept this exhibition’s invitation to slow down and activate a deeper awareness of, and connection with, breath.”
In recognition of the role that art and creative expression can play in supporting mental health, The Peabody Essex Museum has also been hosting a series of monthly art nights where area artists teach and facilitate art making in a casual setting via Zoom. The event has become increasingly popular over the past few months.
“We have a lot of repeat visitors who look forward to getting their art kit in the mail and taking a different class that explores a different medium,” said Beatrice. “But the reason this works as a wellness program is because people experience wellness in different ways. Not everyone’s going to get out there and feel comfortable doing yoga, so we’re looking to offer mindfulness and meditation in a variety of different ways.
The Peabody Essex Museum plans to continue their Wellness programming through the Spring, leading into a dynamic Solstice event in June. You can learn more about the Peabody Essex Museum and its upcoming programming from www.pem.org or following them on Instagram @peabodyessex
Joey Phoenix (they/them) is the Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at Creative Collective. As the resident storyteller and town crier, they encourage you to send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Collective is celebrating the ways we can get outside this Spring with their #SpringOnTheNorthShore campaign, an initiative created to highlight the best that springtime North of Boston has to offer on the longer, warmer days.
Area businesses can participate in the event by using the hashtag #SpringOnTheNorthShore and tagging @creativecollectivema and @creativenorthshore in posts on social media highlighting ways their businesses are encouraging people to get out and explore the best of the region this Spring.