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The Art of Seeing™ is a visual literacy program developed by the McMaster University Department of Family Medicine and the McMaster Museum of Art in partnership. The program encourages participants to develop empathetic, holistic, and humanistic thinking, to enhance personal and professional growth. Through evidence-based looking and facilitated discussion, individuals will interact with each other, artworks, and exhibitions to discover how the work of artists reflects and expresses human experience across time and cultures. This analytic and experiential program uses visual art to generate a deeper understanding of oneself and others.

This program mobilizes McMaster University Faculty of Medicine’s model of problem-based learning through interdisciplinary arts experiences, divulging lessons which can be applied outside of medicine. The Art of Seeing™ is designed to make us better observers by developing greater skills in non-verbal and visual communication, observation, and reflection by disrupting traditional colonial ways of knowing and seeing. The program encourages participants to utilize these skills in reflecting on and challenging individual and systemic biases as a means to realize greater social equity. Familiarity with these skills is achieved through visual literacy training and formal analysis of visual art, both within and beyond the gallery space.

The Art of Seeing™ program has been offered to McMaster residents, faculty, staff, community leaders and businesses at several Ontario sites. The program is tailored to suit each group’s needs in terms of content, length of program, and specific location, and range from a half-day workshop to a six-week course. These sessions can be hosted in a single location or presented at a variety of cultural institutions.

The Art of Seeing™ program was first launched in 2010, following a 2009 pilot project with McMaster faculty. Read the story about the original program (which included an exhibition component) and launch in Macleans Magazine.

In 2018, the program was also made available to individuals through McMaster Continuing Education. (MCE) Details on the next session hosted via MCE (coming 2023) will be shared when available.

For more information:

Dr. Joyce Zazulak, MSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Professor Emeritus, Department of Family Medicine,
McMaster University

Nicole Knibb, BA (Art History), MDes (Strategic Foresight and Innovation)
Senior Educator: Academic & Professional Engagement
McMaster University


Partner Organizations

Read about this program from The Department of Family Medicine.


Artful Encounters: Sites of Visual Inquiry, 2021

Time, Space, and Imagination: The Art of Seeing at McMaster University
Joyce Zazulak and Nicole Knibb

Macleans Magazine, Canadian University Guidebook 2018

The Socratic Method Interview with Joyce Zazulak and Nicole Knibb
Jennifer Lewington

Medical Humanities Journal, September 2017

The art of medicine: arts-based training in observation and mindfulness for fostering the empathic response in medical residents.
Joyce Zazulak, May Sanaee, Andrea Frolic, Nicole Knibb, Eve Tesluk, Edward Hughes, Lawrence E M Grierson

Medical Humanities, 2015

The impact of an arts-based programme on the affective and cognitive components of empathic development
Joyce Zazulak, Camilla Halgren, Megan Tan, Lawrence E M Grierson

International Innovation, 2015

The Art of Healing

Museums and Social Issues, Fall 2010

The Creative Art of Medical Inquiry: A Visual Literacy Program for Family Medicine Residents
Joyce Zazulak, Karen Scott Booth, David Price and Carol Podedworny