Wellness Trends for 2017 #4 Art & Creativity Take Centre Stage

Written By: Lauren Holmes

The Past: From the late 18th century to WW2, the connection between a spa/wellness “cure” and creativity was powerful. But then it was sadly lost, with “wellness” becoming all about chasing physical fitness and beauty.

The Future: Creativity and the arts (both as experienced and practiced) become once again central to wellness concepts – and at hotels, wellness retreats, spas and studios.

Historian David Clay Large’s fascinating keynote revealed that the connection between the “spa cure” and creativity (and famous artists) was historically incredibly strong: artists and thinkers, from Beethoven and Mozart to Twain and Marx, flocked to the grand spas of the late-18th to early- 20th centuries - great works were composed there - and musical performance and art were always the heartbeat of spa culture. Dietmar Mueller-Elmau’s talk (owner, Schloss Elmau, famed German wellness retreat that has kept the creativity-spa connection incredibly alive with 220 concerts a year) argued that “wellness culture” has become narrowly obsessed with ego and “self-optimization”, and needs to focus more on music, art and literature to take guests beyond the “cage of self”. (And Louie Schwartzberg’s extraordinary nature films, and multimedia artist SHA’s collective art piece painted by conference delegates, illustrated the many ways that art can be creatively connected to wellness. If the arts have historically been in spas’ DNA (genetic material that’s been lost), the future is restoring a very different looking “mindbody” connection, with more creativity/arts programming a crucial future wellness trend. Because the medical evidence shows that destressing is the path to creativity, and that creative pursuits are key to mental wellness. So, it’s “back to the future” - with arts and creativity programming again taking their proper place on wellness’ center stage.

Mandarin Oriental's new brand-wide "Digital Wellness" program, using coloring books and journaling in its spas.


• Classes and programming that get people painting, drawing, writing, journaling, learning photography, singing, dancing (as creative expression, not just as workout) and musicmaking, etc. at hotels, wellness retreats, spas, and fitness studios. And without debating the line between “arts” and “crafts,” much more therapeutic making with one’s hands, used intentionally as meditative stress-reducer, like the rage for ceramics, knitting or weaving classes. Who-would-have-predicted trends like the surge in adult coloring books or “adult summer camps” show people’s desperate need to re-find that lost, creative (“crafty”) child. Accessible, (because simple) creative approaches like the coloring book will trend on, but the creativity programs will also head in more sophisticated directions.

• Art and live performance (music, readings, etc.) at hotels, wellness retreats, spas and fitness studios. Why have we, for instance, suffered so much banal spa “music” when we have thousands of years of sublime music to draw on? The trend toward “more performance” at wellness destinations currently finds its most powerful expression in the rage for mystical sound baths and new breeds of sonic, multi-sensory experiences and “ceremonies” at studios, retreats and spas – with star practitioners wielding Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, chimes, gongs, bells and tuning forks to create mind- and stress-melting concerts that accompany meditation, yoga, massages and bathing. But other types of art and performance will become more central to wellness destinations and experiences – whether classical violin or multimedia art.

At the new Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel (UK) the Roman bath circuit is experienced with a live classical violinist

• Artists, writers, musicians and creative professionals turning to every form of stress-reduction – whether meditation, yoga, breathwork, exercise, thermal bathing, massage, time in nature – to kick-start the creative process. And turning to wellness retreats/spas/studios that package them handily as places where creative insights can best get accomplished. (This programming is becoming more standard at writers’ and artists’ retreats). And because “creativity” spans far more than composing “Requiem” or penning a great novel (it’s the application of imaginative solutions to all human endeavors), more “regular people” will seek these wellness approaches and destinations to spur creative breakthroughs about any challenge they face, whether in relationships or at work.