As a community health specialist and an artist I often think about the connections between art and health, but I tend to think about it at a community level. Art has the power to bring people together in a common effort, to raise awareness of an issue, to instigate public dialogue, to mobilize community, to protest.
Working on community health issues out of a hospital for many years, I found that even the link between individual physical health and community health was a hard sell within the institution. Bringing art into the conversation would have been radical. This week I attended part of a conference on arts and healthcare at Lesley University and found a wonderful community of people who use the arts for healing, primarily on an individual level. There were symphonies that ran programming with children’s hospitals, art therapists who work in the realm of psychology, and many others who use art as a way to engage people in a healing process. It was exciting to see that there are some openings where healthcare is ready to accept the arts through its sometimes locked doors. I’ll try to apply what I learned to use art to increase health and well-being at a community level.
Interestingly, I found that a number of people who do arts work in healthcare settings are thinking about research and evaluation, but from what I could gather, the conversations are still in their infancy. Although practitioners can see the results of their work, it’s challenging to quantify healing. At a topic table about research and evaluation we had some short conversations about logic modeling, validated instruments and how to quantify measures of success to supplement the anecdotal evidence that some programs have been collecting. Perhaps I’ll find a way to help the field expand and refine its evaluation measures.