A tour of ancient sewers? An encounter with a masterpiece of 16th-century lace-making? These are two of the therapies on offer to people in Brussels suffering from depression, stress or anxiety.
From this month, psychiatrists in one of the city’s largest hospitals have been able to offer patients “museum prescriptions”, a free visit with a few friends or family members to discover one or more of Brussels’ cultural institutions.
Delphine Houba, a Brussels deputy mayor in charge of culture, believes the project is the first of its kind in Europe. The first objective is to reinforce access to culture after the pressured days of lockdown, she told the Observer. “I want everybody back in our cultural institutions… but we know that, even before Covid, for some people it [was] not easy to open the door of a museum, they don’t feel at ease, they don’t think that it’s for them. And I really want to show that cultural venues are for everybody.”
The second goal, she said, is to give doctors “a new tool in the healing process”. The young socialist politician was inspired by a similar project in Canada, where doctors have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 2018.