The National Benefits Hub

Research that Supports Recreation

← Home

Advanced Search

Creating Community: Celebrations, Arts and Wellbeing Within and Across Local Communities

Key Message

The arts and other forms of creativity can have diffuse and quite profound social outcomes in the contemporary world. They can generate a deeper sense of place that contextualizes a local sense of community.

In some cases, locally relevant projects are also able to address broader social concerns beyond local belonging or identity, such as the integration of migrants, impacts of gentrification, the restructuring of rural economies, or a fear of constant change and insecurity.


Mulligan, M. et al. (2006). Creating Community: Celebrations, Arts and Wellbeing Within and Across Local Communities. Melbourne, Australia: Globalism Institute, RMIT University.


The intention of the research was to examine the relationship between community arts and community celebrations, social health and community wellbeing.

The research for this study was conducted across four research sites in Victoria that ranged from inner‐urban to rural and regional.

The methodology used for this study involved a careful integration of quantitative and qualitative methods, including both random and targeted questionnaires, photonarrative techniques for exploring less conscious aspects of lived experience, lengthy strategic conversations with community arts practitioners and response interviews with project participants, and the collection of specific stories related to the projects and activities being examined in each community. The research also involved the collation of existing data relevant to the study (for example, extracted census data and other published surveys) and the construction of detailed profiles relating to the history and character of the four communities in which the research was conducted. In each area, particular people with relevant skills, knowledge and experience were asked to review the research plans and give advice on individuals and organizations that needed to be consulted. In the Hamilton region, the Globalism Institute has a well‐established consultative association called the Critical Reference Group. It covers a range of research initiatives and was consulted in regard to the design and implementation of this research. The process of consultation was less formalized in regard to the other three communities, but in each case there was a process of active and repeated consultation with several key individuals (see Acknowledgements). Local consultants played a significant role in providing appropriate focus for the research within their own communities. (pp 9-13)


On the basis of the projects and activities examined, and the outcomes from the photonarrative research,  some impressive claims can be made regarding the deep and diverse outcomes of ‘authentic’ art practices and community celebrations. Such practices can:
• Be constructive in helping people to process their emotional responses to lived experiences and in helping them see that there are different ways of interpreting particular experiences.
• Provide cathartic experiences for people by sharing difficulties or painful experiences that might otherwise increase social isolation for some.
• Address unresolved social tensions in relatively non‐threatening ways, such as through the use of humour, and foster dialogue rather than conflict.
• Lift the mood of a group of people or even a whole community and create new optimism about what the community can achieve.
•Give visibility and voice to those who are rarely heard, leading to a more empathetic understanding of the complex causes of isolation in the contemporary world.
• Help both individuals and groups of people to create new narratives of meaning in a changing world.
• Provide people with a stronger sense of purpose and agency so that they can better negotiate the forms and levels of their engagement with other people and groups of people (that is, overcoming social isolation to the extent that the person concerned might want).
• Help people and groups make connections with other people and other groups on the basis of shared interests.
• Increase curiosity about cultural differences in place of a more fearful response to ‘otherness’.
• Help culturally diverse groups make linkages with other such groups in order to share some common ground and forge a humanitarian ethos.
• Make the argument that social diversity is good for a whole community, not just those who are threatened with exclusion, because it can generate cultural vibrancy.
• Help to capture and retain stories from the past and animate them in ways that foster a greater sense of belonging.
• Help local communities to better understand the innate beauty of their local environment and the need to treat it with more respect. (pp148-149)

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