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Bonnie Pitman

Bonnie Pitman

Director Art-Brain Innovations, Center for BrainHealth
Distinguished Scholar in Residence for The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History
Distinguished Scholar in Residence for The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC)

Professional Preparation

Tulane University - 1972
Sweet Briar College - 1968

Research Areas

Art and Medicine, Museums, Art and Healing


Pharma Art - Abstract Medication in the Work of Beverly Fishman, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 319, Number 4 (Jan 2018): 326-328. 2018 - publications
The Art of Examination: Medical School and Art Museum Partnerships, San Antonio Medicine (July 2017). 2017 - publications
Want to Find New Audiences? Keep Trying New Things
June 22, 2017, Bonnie Pitman for Zócalo Public Square 2017 - publications
The Art of Examination: Medical School and Art Museum Partnerships,” San Antonio Medicine (July 2017). 2017 - publications
The Art of Examination: Art Museums and Medical School Partnerships Forum Report,” (2016). 2016 - publications
Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection

Explore the world renowned collection of the Dallas Museum of Art in this lavishly illustrated, informative catalogue. Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection showcases the full range and exceptional quality of the rich holdings of one of America's premier art institutions. The guide features over 400 stunning color photographs of pieces from the Museum's outstanding encyclopedic collection. Works from the ancient Americas, Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the ancient Mediterranean, Europe, and America are all represented, along with modern and contemporary pieces. Accompanying object entries offer descriptions, explanations of iconography, information on the artist or cultural history, and information on provenance and techniques. 2012 - publications
Ignite the Power of Art: Advancing Visitor Engagement in Museum

How do visitors like to experience art? What makes for an enriching museum visit? The Dallas Museum of Art undertook a groundbreaking seven-year research initiative to answer these questions, examining how people connect with art and identifying preferences and differing behaviors. 

Ignite the Power of Art publishes these findings and provides a new understanding of museum visitors. It describes how these studies have been used to build attendance, enhance exhibits, and develop new programs such as the Center for Creative Connections, the online Arts Network, and the Late Nights event series, all at the Dallas Museum of Art. Furthermore, the book describes how this research, which goes far beyond traditional demographic data and analyses, has transformed the Museum, unleashing a profound change in institutional thinking and paving the way for sustained innovation. Also included are interviews with community leaders who offer their perspectives and insights on the Dallas Museum of Art’s remarkable revitalization. 2010 - publications
Presence of Mind: Museums and the Spirit of Learning, Ed.

A comprehensive and wide ranging look at the current state and future prospects of education within the museum at the beginning of the 21st century. Contributors are past winners of the annual Award for Excellence and the John Cotton Dana Award presented by the Education Committee of AAM. Authors include Diane Frankel, Michael Spock, Mary Ellen Munley, Elaine Gurian, Bonnie Pitman, and Alberta Sebolt George, among other leading educators and museum professionals. 1999 - publications


Art and Medicine at the O'Donnell Institute
Embracing a more humanistic understanding of health and well-being is part of a new movement to improve physicians’ clinical training. By developing observation, critical thinking and communication skills, medical students relate these to diagnostic practices and their work with patients.

The use of original works of art from museum collections is a unique approach to engaging medical students, residents, physicians, and nurses in an innovative learning process. Medical schools are expanding their education programs by partnering with local art museums.
Do Something New(tm)
Bonnie Pitman initiated her Something New™ Practice on July 8, 2011. This  daily practice of doing Something New invites the exploration of an ordinary day and making it extraordinary. This simple practice has guided her celebration of life and living with her chronic illnesses over the past years. 


The Power of Observation: RED
Develop your Power of Observation by exploring the color red – understanding how our eyes and brain perceive and process the color, and discovering the different meanings of red throughout history and across cultures.
The Art of Examination eLearning Video
Based on The Art of Examination, a preclinical elective for medical students at UT Southwestern Medical School, follow modules led by Bonnie Pitman, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at UT Dallas Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, and Dr. Heather Goff, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern, and UT Southwestern medical students to improve visual diagnostic skills, increase attention to detail, embrace other viewpoints, work collaboratively, and practice mindfulness, empathy and compassion by engaging with the power of art in the Dallas Museum of Art.
Art and Health Lecture Series: Art and the Brain
Lecture series presenting the stories of artists who creatively respond to health issues through their artwork. Filmed at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2019.

Additional Information

Personal Statement
Bonnie Pitman joined The University of Texas at Dallas as Distinguished Scholar in Residence in 2012 to research and develop partnerships between UT Dallas and cultural and health-related institutions. She serves in the Office of the Provost, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, The Center for BrainHealth, and The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC).

The former Director of The Dallas Museum of Art, she is a national leader in education and the public engagement of art. Pitman has been a curator, educator, and administrator at the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, Seattle Art Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Pitman’s work with The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History focuses on Art and Medicine and The Power of Observation™. Pitman teaches a seminar for the UT Dallas Honors College in Observation using the framework she has developed, The Power of Observation™, that introduces neuroscience of seeing and develops new skills for seeking and processing information to make new connections and to retain ideas and observations. She also teaches a UT Southwestern Medical School class that develops close observation of works of art to enhance the diagnostic skills needed for medical practice.

In 2016, she organized a national convening of Art Museums and Medical Schools at The Museum of Modern Art, NYC and launched a website with resources for the art and medical fields through the O'Donnell Institute.

Recently published articles in The Journal of American Medicine, The New York Times, San Antonio Medicine, and Dallas Morning News highlight her work. 

As Director of Art-Brain Innovations at the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth, Pitman expands her research and teaching of the art of observation, meditation, and compassion. Her Power of Observation™ initiative connects neurological research with the experience and process of seeing, looking, and observing. Through her daily practice to "Do Something New", she invites the exploration and celebration of making an ordinary day extraordinary while dealing with chronic illness.

Publications include the Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, 2012 and Ignite the Power of Art: Advancing Visitor Engagement in Museum, 2010. In addition to numerous articles, she was the editor of Presence of Mind: Museums and the Spirit of Learning and  Excellence and Equity: Education and Public Dimension of Museums, the latter a signature work that altered the perceived role of museums in society.

She is a member of the Advisory Board for the SMU National Center for Arts Research in the Meadows School for the Arts and Cox Business School and on the Board of the Baylor Health Care Foundation in Dallas, TX.

News Articles

Guiding Force Behind DMA Joins Faculty in Arts and Humanities
Guiding Force Behind DMA Joins Faculty in Arts and Humanities Bonnie Pitman, a guiding force in remaking and advancing the reputation of the Dallas Museum of Art, recently joined the faculty of the School of Arts and Humanities. As Distinguished Scholar in Residence, she is charged with creating new methods of education, focusing much of her expertise in technology and emerging media in helping to build the national reputation of the school.
O'Donnell Art History Institute Launches New Online Resource
The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art Historyat UT Dallas will launch a new website Oct. 31 with access to documents addressing an intriguing question in medicine: How can looking at works of art help medical students be better doctors?
The institute’s Art and Medicine website will include research and programming on the innovative partnerships between art museums and medical schools developing initiatives for students to strengthen their diagnostic and clinical skills through art. The website also will host documents from the first national forum examining art museum and medical school partnerships bridging the arts and sciences through collaborative programs.
Can you train your brain to work better?
Can you train your brain to work better? Bonnie Pitman leads an observational exercise for WFAA Channel 8's Verify program. (Segment begins at 3:42)
Dallas Innovators: Bonnie Pitman Does Something New Every Day
Dallas Innovators: Bonnie Pitman Does Something New Every Day October 10, 2018, Dallas Innovates
How an Aesthete’s Eye Can Help a Doctor’s Hand
October 30, 2016, New York Times