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PEM’s new initiative addresses community well-being through art and healing

Released February 10, 2021

SALEM, MA — This winter, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is addressing the challenges put forth by the COVID-19 pandemic by rolling out a new wellness initiative. Being Well seeks to improve the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of local and global communities. From mindfulness, meditation and movement practices to art-making and storytelling, PEM is providing opportunities that foster creativity and reduce stress. In Episode 20 of the PEMcast, PEM’s award-winning podcast, this new initiative is explored with Siddhartha Shah, PEM’s Director of Education and Civic Engagement; Zarah Hussain, the artist behind a healing exhibition currently on view; and Jurrien Timmer, PEM’s board member who recently endowed a new meditation gallery at the Museum.

“As we seek to heal from this pandemic, we face a profound mental health crisis in this country,” says Shah. “It is important to take care of our spirit, emotions, and body. We all have our moments of anxiety and distress, especially from the events of the last year. We are thrilled that the Museum can provide community respite and offer new ways to help people heal and thrive.”

During the pandemic, PEM has teamed up with a local yoga studio to offer limited capacity in-person and online yoga in two of its meditative gallery spaces. In December, an exhibition opened with commissioned works by London-based artist Zarah Hussain. Moving through inhalations and exhalations, as well as the silent spaces in between, Hussain’s work — produced in London while the artist was under COVID-19 lockdown — utilizes the universal principles of mathematics to guide viewers into deep contemplation and stillness. The resulting exhibition, Zarah Hussain: Breath, is on view through June 20 and asks us to slow down and examine the transformative power of breath.

The Being Well initiative kicks off formally during February School Vacation Week, beginning February 15, with a weeklong celebration of art making, music, and storytelling for students and the PEM Pals program for young children. PEM’s Educators Open House will rejuvenate hard-working teachers, offering new PEM-produced resources to support mindfulness in and out of the classroom.

The ongoing monthly series, Create Night, continues in February with an art making session for adults who are encouraged to grab a beverage at home and meet one of PEM’s educators to enjoy the stress-reducing benefits of working with clay.

© 2020 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

Share your impressions with us on social media using #BeingWellPEM


The health and safety of PEM’s staff and visitors is our highest priority. PEM has increased its safety protocols, including the frequency and intensity of its sanitation and disinfection efforts across the museum. Face coverings are to be worn at all times. To learn more, visit

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Thursdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays, 10 am–5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Communications | | 978-542-1828