The National Benefits Hub

Research that Supports Recreation

← Home

Advanced Search

Art and Wellbeing: A Guide to the Connections between Community Cultural Development and Health,...

Key Message

Direct involvement by communities in arts activity can contribute significantly to individual and community wellbeing and can enhance the efforts of government agencies in realizing their policies for community wellbeing and ecologically sustainable communities.

Source

Mills, D., & Brown, P. (2004). Art and Wellbeing: A Guide to the Connections between Community Cultural Development and Health, Ecologically Sustainable Development, Public Housing and Place, Rural Revitalisation, Community Strengthening, Active Citizenship, Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity. Sydney, Australia: Australia Council for the Arts.

Purpose

This study from the Australia Council for the Arts assembles ideas and case study material to demonstrate the connections between community cultural development and government ‘wellbeing’ initiatives. The case study material is grouped under seven themes, which represent key priorities for governments in Australia in achieving community wellbeing:
• Health
• Ecologically sustainable development
• Public housing and place
• Rural revitalisation
• Community strengthening
• Active citizenship
• Social inclusion and cultural diversity.

In 2002 the Community Cultural Development Board (CCDB) of the Australia Council commissioned research to explore the effect of its funding on the policies and programs of those government agencies concerned with community wellbeing. This research and consultation included round-table meetings with representatives from key community and government agencies, and extensive interviews with government agencies and cultural organizations.

Evidence

Health & Human Development

Australian and overseas research shows that direct involvement by communities in arts activity can contribute significantly to individual and community wellbeing and can enhance the efforts of government agencies in realizing their policies for community wellbeing and ecologically sustainable communities.

If governments wish to more effectively enhance community wellbeing, they need to recognize or incorporate the community’s culture (and thus values) within government policies and strategies. They can do this through participatory creative processes. Community cultural development uses involvement in artistic and other creative processes as a way of exploring and expressing our cultures and the values underpinning these cultures and our society. Community cultural development processes can therefore play a vital role in helping people to think critically about their experiences.

The consultation with key community and government agencies revealed a growing awareness of the significance of culture as a factor in wellbeing and an interest in integrating cultural development into those government policies and strategies concerned with wellbeing.

The Artful Dodgers Studio: achievements
By examining Studio participation data over a four-year period ending in 2001, the following trends have been identified:

1) Substance use – on entry to the program, only 6% of participants reported not misusing drugs and/or alcohol. This picture changed drastically, with 36% of participants reporting not using any substances on exit from the program. Further, on entry to the program 76% of participants reported abusing depressants such as alcohol, heroin and prescription drugs, while on exit this figure had dropped to 37%.

2) Mental health – there was an overall reduction in reported levels of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, as well as a small reduction in the number of psychotic episodes experienced by some participants.

3) Education/employment – almost all of the participants who came to the program had disconnected from formal education and/or employment; however, on exit 18% of participants entered some form of employment and 21% returned to formal education (such as CAE, VCE, TAFE and university). (Thiele and Marsden, 2003)

“In 1999 the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) developed its Mental Health Promotion Plan 1999–2002, establishing a framework for the development of research and program activity over a three-year period. The framework focuses on three determinants of mental health: social connection and social inclusion; freedom from discrimination and violence; and economic participation. Arts and creative processes are used to assist individuals strengthen these aspects of their lives as part of an integrated program.” - VicHealth’s evaluation of the CAP scheme identified specific mental health benefits.

“Active engagement in intellectual and artistic activities is one way in which we can re-evaluate our perceived reality, and our collective habits of thinking and acting. This engagement can expose communities and decision-makers to previously unimaginable ideas which challenge our values, leading to personal growth, lifelong learning and change.”

RESULTS - Environment
CERES (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies)

CERES is a longstanding East Brunswick (Melbourne) community-based program with the Festival of the Sacred Kingfisher as the centrepiece. It is located on a 5 hectare site, boasting interactive environmental and cultural displays, alternative energy projects, public artworks, community permaculture gardens, creative play equipment, farm animals, an Indigenous plant nursery, a café and a stage.

Supported by government agencies as an arts, environment and education program, CERES arises from an exploration of sustainability in the urban context. Education and celebratory functions are driven by artists, academics and scientists.”

CERES achievements:
• The festival brings together disability services, local council, schools and community groups, has contributed to strengthening community
• It is a meeting place for different ‘communities of interest’ – environmental, educational, multicultural.

RESULTS - Economic
According to this study, “In every Australian state, there is evidence of arts activity being used in programs which encourage economic revitalization in rural and regional communities.”

According to this study, “community regeneration initiatives are seen as important in Wauchope and there are currently a range of community initiatives to diversify Wauchope’s economic base with a strong focus on supporting and marketing locally grown produce and promoting the area’s attributes as a rural community with a unique cultural heritage. There is a growing awareness that the arts also have a role to play in community renewal.” (Flowers, 2003)

Results - Social

Somebody’s Daughter Theatre - The company aims to assist women in prison, ex-prisoners and youth at risk, to deal with issues that have caught them in a destructive cycle of self-abuse and self-negation. By facilitating a space where their voice and vision of life’s experiences can be shared with others, these people are empowered.

The drama process takes an idea from dream to conception to completion, from a dream to reality–providing an excellent model for anyone who wants to make positive changes in their life.’ (Osmotherly, 2002)

“It is a place that enables participants to have control over their environment and the arts has played a key role: Cascade Place aims to provide opportunities for individuals to pursue their personal and professional goals through the provision of visual and performing arts workshops, the establishment and maintenance of a community garden and related workshops and events. By doing this, Cascade Place creates opportunities to continually improve and broaden skills, friendship networks and quality of life for people with a disability. “(Cascade Place web site)

Big ART Council outcomes:
1. It allows disadvantaged individuals to be re-engaged in the cultural life of the community which improves the social health of both the individual and the community.
2. The holistic approach taken results in social, economic and cultural benefits for the entire community.
3. The activities to which young people contribute help to improve their emotional/mental health, family reintegration, and employment options. The work also has outcomes relating to wellbeing, including suicide prevention, crime prevention and vocational training.
4. The mentorship and advocacy presented in the activities helps to improve health by promoting behavioural change and providing increased options for the disadvantaged.
5. People who are neglected by and disengaged from society can cease anti-social behaviour and be again connected with the community. (Rankin, 1996)

“In another initiative, the company has increased its work with youth at risk as a strategy for tackling the social determinants of ill health, and to ‘break the cycle’ which ties some young people to the criminal justice system. Intergenerational projects with youth at risk in Wodonga and Albury have become a major priority within the company’s current three year plan.

The youth involved are mostly contenders for juvenile justice, have been expelled from schools, and as a result find it impossible to work in a group situation.”

Outcomes of youth project:  Found that the High Water Theatre initiative demonstrated the way empowerment through arts activity can be used to inspire both individual and collective action. For example, although most participants were initially forced to attend workshops, three weeks into the project all wanted to participate, and felt enabled by the experience to take control over their lives. One significant way in which they expressed this after involvement in the program was through renewed desire to find an educational framework that could benefit them. (Osmotherly, 2002)

CERES (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) “CERES is a longstanding East Brunswick (Melbourne) community-based program with the Festival of the Sacred Kingfisher as the centrepiece. It is located on a 5 hectare site, boasting interactive environmental and cultural displays, alternative energy projects, public artworks, community permaculture gardens, creative play equipment, farm animals, an Indigenous plant nursery, a café and a stage.

Supported by government agencies as an arts, environment and education program, CERES arises from an exploration of sustainability in the urban context. Education and celebratory functions are driven by artists, academics and scientists.”

CERES achievements:
• CERES can be interpreted as a spontaneous renewal not only of a degraded urban environment and habitat for a migratory bird, but also sustainable human relationship to nature.
• CERES is regarded as a ‘ritual’ that approaches ecological sustainability in a positive (rather reactive) way, relying on a shared sense ‘place’ where multidisciplinary exchanges interactions take place between diverse groups.
• Through this a central achievement is the reflection and re-negotiation of human relationships with the environment.

Other social benefits are:
“Building on a base of local arts activity, and previous arts festivals, processes of community cultural development have increased the engagement of community members with the celebration. Small businesses, local artists, landholders, ex-state foresters, bushwalkers, the local photographic society, scouts and many local families became involved.”“Community cultural development is a well established process for strengthening social capital within communities. Creative processes can help bridge divisions within a community, inject new life into strategies for community engagement, encourage partnership and cooperation, promote cross-cultural and intergenerational understanding, reduce fear of crime, promote neighbourhood security, enhance leadership and organisational skills and provide new vision and hope and a shared sense of purpose, as well as practical solutions for economic revitalisation.”“Evidence indicates that the project has strengthened the capacities of those who are most disadvantaged.

The project has effectively engaged with people and groups who otherwise have experienced exclusion and marginalisation. There is also evidence that the Re-Igniting Community project and The Torch has inspired a variety of practitioners—from social workers to school teachers to environmental activists—to devise more creative and structured ways of working.” (Flowers and McEwen, 2003)“Community cultural development processes can nurture local democracy by encouraging people to become more active citizens. It does this not just by giving people the personal and practical skills, but by opening up routes to wider democratic processes and encouraging in people the desire to participate.”“Community cultural development processes can nurture local democracy by encouraging people to become more active citizens. It does this not just by giving people the personal and practical skills, but by opening up routes to wider democratic processes and encouraging in people the desire to participate.”“Community cultural development uses involvement in artistic and other creative processes as a way of exploring and expressing our cultures and the values underpinning these cultures and our society. Community cultural development processes can therefore play a vital role in helping people to think critically about their experiences.”

Additional Information

|

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

Get Updates By Email