As of next month, the Montreal-based Art Hive – a program at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) – will allow doctors to prescribe art museum visits to patients.

The Art Hive, a creative community studio that provides space for the community to share ideas under the supervision of an art therapist, runs programs to promote well-being through art. The Art Hive also collaborates on research with doctors to explore the health benefits of museum visits and includes a physical space for medical consultation.

The Art Hive’s latest initiative collaborates with physicians, allowing them to prescribe up to 50 hours of visits per patient to the museum each year. As of November 1, 2018, Montreal-based physicians who are members of Médecins francophones du Canada will be able to prescribe visits to the MMFA to patients.

The Art Hive at MMFA is part of the Art Hives Network – a network of community art studios that includes art pop-ups in libraries, community studios, and galleries. The Art Hive at MMFA, which was inaugurated in March 2017, is the 105th in the Art Hives Network, and is a collaboration between MMFA and Concordia University.

“There’s more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for your physical health,” said Dr. Hélène Boyer, vice-president of Médecins francophones du Canada and the head of the family medicine group at the CLSC St-Louis-du-Parc to the Montreal Gazette about the Montreal-based initiative.

She added that: “People tend to think this is only good for mental-health issues. That it’s for people who’re depressed or who have psychological problems. But that’s not the case. It’s good for patients with diabetes, for patients in palliative care, for people with chronic illness. Since the ’80s we’ve been prescribing exercise for our patients because we know exercise increases exactly the same hormones. But when I have patients who’re over 80, it’s not obvious that I can prescribe exercise for them.”

The one-year pilot aims to deal with a variety of physical and mental health problems, including depression and diabetes. According to Thomas Bastien, director of education and wellness at the Museum of Fine Arts, the museum has worked closely with the medical community for the past 20 years, using art to help patients.