Arts & Well Being

Program Description

This is a residential program that is focused on how the arts work to promote human wellbeing for individuals, groups, and communities.  It is tied into a larger community engagement project in Philadelphia that Faculty Fellow Carol Muller has recently initiated.  The idea is that sometimes “talk therapy” doesn’t adequately address particular kinds of emotional distress and trauma that are felt in the human body but not easily articulated verbally or cognitively.  We will come to understand medical models of wellbeing, and ways in which communities around the world address trauma and distress through collective rituals, performance, and various forms of art making.  We will practice our own well being through a variety of forms of self expression that don’t require any kind of ‘talent’ or ‘skill’ just a willingness to express deeply felt emotion through the arts and performance.

To Apply to this Program:

Submit an online housing application. You're required to submit an essay as part of the Program Community application process. Please answer this question on your application and not the general question listed on the application site.

  • What in your experience is the work of arts in individual and community life for creating a sense of well-bring in the United States and/or elsewhere in the world?

Keep reading below and visit the Program Communities page for additional information.

Offers Participants

We recognize that coming to Penn as a first year student has its own stresses. Our program community will provide a core sense of a safe and caring place for students to acquire strategies and practices that promote self-care. Students will also reach beyond themselves into the city of Philadelphia, to learn a variety of strategies for self care in the world at large.  In the spring semester we will extend our learning into a community project in the city of Philadelphia, sharing our knowledge and resources with those in need of such knowledge and resources.

Philosophy/Other Pertinent Information

This is an inherently interdisciplinary and cross-cultural community, one that requires students to engage in thinking about lived practice, about different ways of being and forms of healing on campus and in the world at large.  Students will have to be willing to engage the arts as a strategy of personal well being, and then be willing to share that knowledge and experience with others off campus.

What Students Gain/Learn by Participating

Students will gain skills in managing stress through creative practices and self-understanding, and gain an understanding of how communities in different parts of the world have managed challenging and difficult circumstances through ritual, performance, narrative, and artistic practice.

List of Objectives/Goals

  • Be part of a supportive and caring community
  • Learn strategies of self understanding and self care through engaging the arts
  • Share that knowledge with others off campus
  • Take the knowledge to a global and comparative perspective.

Participation Expectations

  • We will meet biweekly for brunch and discussion/presentation/practice.  Each student will lead the gathering once in a semester with support from Dr. Muller or another expert in the field of arts and well being.
  • We will occasionally bring in speakers/practitioners to share knowledge and guide
  • In the spring, we will engage in a community project, either for academic credit or as an extra curricular activity that will take the same amount of time as the fall biweekly meetings.
  • Students will have priority registration for Dr. Muller's Freshmen Seminar on Arts and Well Being.

Sample Schedule of Events


  • Biweekly Sunday brunch gatherings
  • Occasional speaker/arts practitioner


  • Community project as extra curricular activity, alternate weeks or as a freshman seminar for credit. 
  • To be decided by the residential community.