By Natalie Richoux

Public art has a unique beauty you won’t find in a museum. There is quite a bit to love about public art: almost all public art has an inspiring message or call to action behind its beauty and you can view public art just about anywhere in a town with free access. As enjoyable as viewing public art is, it turns out there are health benefits found in viewing public art.

Often when we view public art, we are struck with the feeling of being awed by that art. As it turns out, the “awe feeling” we experience can actually lead to a boost in your in body’s defense systems, according to a study conducted by UC Berkley in 2015. The researchers found that when we are impressed and awed by something linked to positive emotions, especially through artistic expressions, our levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines are lowered. While cytokines can help fight infection and disease, sustained high levels of cytokines are linked to major health disorders such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and clinical depression, according to the UC Berkley research study.

Furthermore, public art has the ability to reduce stress, according to a study published in the Journal of Holistic Healthcare. The researchers of this study found that when participants wandered around looking at art during their lunch break, there was an actual reduction in their cortisol levels (the chemical largely responsible for stress), so much so that the researchers reported that the drastic reduction of cortisol levels in 40 minutes typically takes a minimum of 5 hours through other stress reducing activities.

Public art also has the ability to help individuals feel connected and welcomed in their community. According to the American for the Arts non-profit, public art not only enhances and personalizes impersonal spaces, but it provides a means for a community to express its identity and activate civic dialogue where people from different background, traditions and cultures can come together and create something specific to that diverse community and connect individuals to one another.

With such amazing physical and mental health benefits when viewing public art, you may be encouraged to try to go out and stroll through public art displays. Luckily, Gainesville is full of areas to view public art, especially with the 352walls and the Gainesville Urban Art Initiative which is in their third year of expansive public art projects and brought in artists from all over the world to paint murals on walls all over Gainesville with the aim of making Gainesville a vibrant cultural destination, stimulate urban renewal, foster cultural tourism and economic development, boost community pride and beautify urban landscape.