Project Director

Townsend, Gavin

Department Examiner

Amirkhani, Jordan


Dept. of Art


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


For many cultures throughout the ages, art has been synonymous with healing and has held a key role in many ancient spiritual and religious healing rituals. Traditionally, art has also been held as a hallowed and fundamental part of society and culture. However, the role of art is changing. Today the value of art-making is in increasingly under scrutiny and often dubbed an unnecessary and unimportant luxury. Art is being slowly removed from school curricula and faces defunding. While art has never been more available, still too often art is quarantined in the isolated halls of museums and available only to the select few who have the luxury to go out of their way to be involved with the arts. As art’s role in contemporary society is increasingly questioned, another topic has enjoyed a surge in popularity: mindfulness. Contemporary psychology has seen a substantial increase in the study of mindfulness—in 2012 alone over 500 scientific articles on mindfulness were published, more than the total number of articles published about mindfulness from 1980 to 2000. A large body of research indicate significant correlations between increased mindfulness and many positive psychological and physiological outcomes. These benefits suggest that mindfulness is a valuable tool for increasing general well-being and psychological health, and implies that mindfulness is likely to remain a popular subject of research in the near future. Although both mindfulness and art have been proven to have a variety of positive outcomes, little research has explored the possible relationship between the visual arts and mindfulness. This is surprising given that the benefits of mindfulness and engagement with the visual arts are very similar. Furthermore, the activities of mindfulness and art-making share several similarities, such as increased engagement with the present moment and regulation of attention. Given this gap in research, I propose that engagement with the visual arts, through viewing but especially through creation, provides opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. Thus, interacting with art may result in many of the same psychological and physiological benefits of mindfulness. In this paper, I seek to demonstrate that interactions with art likely have more benefits than research has currently proven, that these benefits can be helpful for a wide population, and that engagement with any form of visual art likely results in many of the same benefits of mindfulness. This paper first introduces the procedure for a study that was conducted to test the hypothesis that engagement with the visual arts increases mindfulness. Next, chapter one explores historical and modern understandings of mindfulness, provides examples of mindfulness, gives insight into misconceptions about mindfulness, and offers a brief history of the way the fields of psychology and art have incorporated mindfulness practices. Chapter two then examines several main benefits of mindfulness and engagement with the visual arts. In chapter three the methods, procedure, results from an experiment which was conducted as a part of this thesis are discussed. Qualitative and quantitative data gathered from this experiment will be included as examples throughout the paper after this point. Chapter four then examines why engagement with the visual arts may increase mindfulness through exploring the way that art keeps us fully engaged in the present moment. Chapter four also explains ways that one may cultivate an artistically mindful mindset outside of traditional mindfulness and art practices. Finally, Chapter five discusses the implications a connection between art and mindfulness may have.

IRB Number



B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Mindfulness (Psychology); Conceptual art


Kaprow, Allan -- Criticism and interpretation


Mindfulness; Visual art; Allan Kaprow; Drawing; Flow; Psychology


Art and Design

Document Type



unnumbered leaves