Following the February 20th shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts will offer free admission through the end of February. Admission is currently free. Six people were killed and two critically injured in the incident; the suspect has since been arrested.

We want to open our doors to share the peace and beauty of the museum,” said the Institute of Arts’ Executive Director, Belinda Tate. “We invite visits by those who are touched personally by this tragedy, and those who are, as we are, reeling from this kind of violence happening in our beloved Kalamazoo.”

“We want people to know we support the community during this difficult time, and to understand how art can enhance well-being. We offer the art museum as a respite space for reflection, nourishment, and quality time with family and friends,” Tate added.

Art really can enhance well-being. It’s used in many healing and recuperative capacities, from children to the elderly. Art therapy is proven to aid in the healing of emotional traumas, and a 2011 study indicated that blood flow increased 10 percent to the “joy response” that comes with looking at beautiful works of art.

Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic found that over 60% of patients reported that the presence of the hospital’s contemporary art collection reduced their stress. Of course, art doesn’t have to live just in hospitals to provide comfort. Art can be a welcome distraction from the goings-on of life, and it provides opportunities for peace, reflection, or education for many people.

Art therapy has proved especially helpful for children who face mental and emotional difficulties. “The biggest advantage is that art can express things that are not expressible verbally,” says Dr. Sarah Deaver, President of the American Art Therapy Association. “That’s a huge advantage for people who don’t have the language to talk about what’s inside of them.”

Offering free admission to an art museum allows that kind of distraction and that kind of language to the people in Kalamazoo who need it most. Even those who do have the language to talk about what happened may still find walking through a museum to be a peaceful and restorative experience.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Art is open from 11-5 Tuesday-Wednesday and 11-8 Thursday-Friday. They are also open 11-5 Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday.