NEWS | June 22, 2017

Crocker Art Museum partners with UC Davis pain management expert for summer art meditation series


In support and acknowledgement of the Crocker Art Museum’s work to benefit the community through art-based wellness programs, the Museum is pleased to announce it has been awarded a Hemera Foundation grant to bolster its efforts, and introduce a new, 3-week, introductory Artful Meditation course, starting June 25.

While developing a series of exhibition-related programs in 2015, the Crocker’s adult education coordinator, Erin Dorn, noticed the deeply calming effect that artwork had on herself and her colleagues. Dorn, who studied public interaction with art at UC Davis, designed a program for the public involving gentle, guided instruction centered on mindful experiences in the galleries. In response to the program’s immediate popularity, Dorn expanded it, offering a multi-course art meditation series with medical experts to offer participants even more opportunities to reap the benefits of this ancient practice.

According to the National Institutes of Health, evidence suggests that exercises in meditation – most of which involve a quiet place and a focus of attention – may help practitioners achieve greater psychological balance, improve coping skills, reduce pain, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, and even calm digestive issues.

In her summer Art Meditation series, Dorn and her guest instructor Ian Koebner, UC Davis Health’s director of integrative pain management, will offer beginning instruction in the quiet peace of the Crocker’s galleries, with Koebner guiding participants in the gentle practice of bringing awareness to the present moment.

“Many people mistakenly think that they’re not ‘good meditators’ when they try to clear their minds but their thoughts naturally wander,” says Dorn. “However, when you offer them a guided experience involving slow-looking with a work of art that attracts them, their breathing often slows, and many describe a quiet — albeit powerful — sense of serenity that washes through them. We see it in seasoned meditators as well as newbies, and some have described it as quite therapeutic.”

In recognition of Dorn’s work to enhance the community through these programs, as well as her effort to help shape the Hemera Foundation’s Meditation in Museums initiative, the foundation — which supports innovative organizations that foster basic human goodness in individuals and society — has awarded a $7,500 grant to bolster Dorn’s research and program development. With 87 percent of her recent program participants reporting “complete satisfaction”, Dorn is focused on immediately benefitting participants of her mid-summer Art Meditation series starting this weekend, as well as a unique sound meditation program planned for this November.

“We see this as one fascinating way that the public can experience art and museums and be all the better for it,” says Dorn. “While many of our program ‘graduates’ return to the Crocker to continue meditating on artwork, we give them tools and techniques that they can use anywhere, anytime, in their daily lives.”

Koebner is a long-time meditation practitioner and student of Roshi Enkyo O’Hara at the Village Zendo in New York City. As director of integrative pain management within the Division of Pain Medicine at UC Davis Health, he incorporates mindful meditation into his patients’ care and has led meditation programs in a variety of settings, from juvenile detention centers to museum galleries.

The Crocker Art Museum features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of European master drawings and international ceramics. The Museum offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to augment its collections, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, children’s activities, and more. Every third Sunday of the month is "Pay What You Wish Sunday," sponsored by Western Health Advantage. For more information, call 916-808-7000 or visit