Art is for everyone: the benefits of art and the best places in Leeds to explore it

University of Leeds
4 min readAug 17, 2022

Engaging with the arts brings many benefits: it allows us to develop our brains, sensitivity and social skills. This short article will tell you why you should schedule a gallery trip on your next free afternoon and where to see the best art in and around Leeds!

Interior in the Leeds Art Gallery.
Interior of the Leeds Art Gallery

Increased feeling of happiness

According to prof. In Semir Zeka’s research, looking at a work of art can invoke a similar emotional reaction as being in love. Through examining the brain activity of people looking at works of art that are usually regarded as beautiful such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Zeka and his team found out that engaging with art stimulates dopamine production. Dopamine is known as the ‘good-mood’ hormone. It gives you a sense of pleasure and motivation. Looking at paintings also stimulates the frontal lobe — the area of the brain responsible for memory, planning and emotions. So, if you’ve been feeling a little down recently, it might be worth visiting an art gallery.

The obvious one would be the Leeds Art Gallery, but if you’ve already been or if you think you’d enjoy a unique location, why not go to The Tetley or Sunny Bank Mills. These two are also excellent places to have lunch. Check out Grumpy’s Pizza when you go to Sunny Bank Mills. Harewood House is also full of art, including names like Turner or Titian, bonus points for all the beautiful nature around (and guinea pigs!).

Sunny Bank Mills exterior
Exterior of the Sunny Bank Mills. Credit: Richard Cruise

Reduction of stress

Not everyone can be an artist, but everyone experiences stress. Megan Carleton, a Harvard-associated Massachusetts General Hospital art therapist, says that creating art carries multiple health benefits, such as regulating blood pressure and breath. As a result, the level of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone reduces. You could try a Monday evening life drawing class hosted on Mondays by Left Bank or a weekly Friday afternoon Sketch Club session at Audrey & Stanley Burton Gallery in the Parkinson Building. Look for other events in art galleries and other art and heritage spaces. They often provide yoga sessions (for instance, free Wednesday morning yoga at The Tetley) or writing classes. You can develop your interests or have some fun and see some art by the way.

Sketch Club at Audrey & Stanley Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds.

Everyone can experience the benefits of creating art regardless of the final results. However, if you feel like it’s not for you, there’s good news! You can experience similar benefits when only looking at art! While looking at and discussing art, you exercise your imagination and learn how to express yourself better in contact with others. These qualities are often helpful in other aspects of life, so by going to a museum or an art gallery, you not only improve your life in the present but also work on things that can benefit you later, for example, during your course or at work.

A deeper understanding of history and the world around

Artists have been commenting on the life around them for centuries. Wall paintings in Lascaux caves discovered in the 1940s are an invaluable source of information about life in 17 000–15 000 B.C.E. Picasso painted Guernica in 1937 in response to the brutal events of the civil war in Spain. Engaging with arts in more intellectual ways gives us a chance to understand history as events with causes and effects and to develop an understanding of history on a level of individual people. In other words, to strengthen our empathy.

Interior of the Henry Moor Institute.
Interior of the Henry Moor Institute

Other art galleries in Leeds and the area:

Henry Moore Institute


The Hepworth Wakefield

Yorkshire Sculpture Park


The Art House