The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing

News : 6 November 2017
Image: Mikala Dwyer The letterbox Marys 2015-17, installation detail at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in the exhibition A shape of thought. Until 4 February 2018. © Mikala Dwyer

Can trauma be overcome through the arts? Can arts be used in healthcare to aid recovery? Do the arts facilitate positive ageing across a lifetime? These are just some of the questions addressed at the International Arts and Health Conference at the Art Gallery of New South Wales last week. The conference brought together Australian and international leaders in the fields of arts, health and creative ageing for three days of presentations and workshops centred around the theme ‘Mental Health and Resilience through the Arts’.

Culture Counts CEO Michael Chappell presented as part of a session on visual arts and health alongside Debbie Abraham, Occupational Therapist and Gallery Director of Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Lisa Behan founder of Mindsettle, Jillian Guy of the Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care and Bliss Cavanagh PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle.

In his presentation, Michael asserted the importance of communicating the health and wellbeing outcomes of arts and cultural activities using evidence. There are anecdotes suggesting that the arts are supporting mental health, active ageing and longer lives better lived but this largely goes unmeasured. Rather than just counting outputs such as programs and participants, there are now practical methodologies for effectively measuring outcomes such as social connection, mental and physical health. 

Michael highlighted the importance of linking any evaluation strategy to each organisation’s unique mission and key outcomes. This enables organisations to measure the important impacts of their arts and health programs for a diversity of participants, ensuring that they capture the things they set out to achieve. His presentation also included practical tips for improving data collection practices, with examples of compelling ways to report on outcomes to a range of stakeholders.

If you are interested in outcomes measurement or discussing this topic further, please don’t hesitate to contact Michael Chappell directly on 08 9325 6551.

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