Before you start
Using participatory arts to achieve health and wellbeing outcomes offers an innovative alternative to more traditional clinical approaches. Through using creative approaches participatory arts projects have the ability to engage with individuals and communities, contribute to reducing health inequalities, improve public health by raising awareness of health promotion messages and encourage behaviour change leading to improved clinical outcomes.
A well planned arts project can play an important role in supporting communities to be empowered in a range of ways including:
Who are the project beneficiaries and how will you engage them?
Once you know who your project is targeted at you need to give some thought as to how you will find suitable participants.
What setting do you need to work in to involve the project beneficiaries?
Will you be working in a school, youth or community setting? If you are thinking of working with a group you don't know then it will be useful to contact local voluntary or community groups or other service providers that work with the client group you are planning to target.
If you do not have the appropriate skills or time you may need to consider commissioning your artist to undertake this aspect of the work. If this is the case you will need an artist who can talk to potential beneficiaries to help you develop an appropriate project.
For more information about how to engage with diverse communities please go to:
http://www.cdx.org.uk/ A UK wide membership organisation for community development
http://changesuk.net/resources/community-empowerment/ An 8 page guide to community empowerment written by changes and independent consultancy specializing in community empowerment for Local Authorities
http://www.ce.communitiesscotland.gov.uk/stellent/groups/public/documents/webpages/scrcs_006693.hcsp Scottish Centre for Community Engagement developed to help people who are involved in community development
http://www.involve.org.uk/ A national organisation which brings people together to discuss public participation. The site includes a link to downloadable resources.
The evidence base for using the arts
At this stage you may want review the evidence base for using the arts. It is useful to research other participatory arts and health projects with similar objectives to your project to build an evidence base to show that an arts intervention can make a difference. Researching the evidence for the work means you can consider whether there is a need to present a new case for your own work or if it would be more appropriate to transfer findings from other similar projects.
A summary of existing research is included in Arts Council England (2007) A Prospectus for Arts and Health, a downloadable publication available from www.artscouncil.org.uk
New Economics Foundation research into wellbeing including examples of how the arts have been used to support people to improve their personal wellbeing http://www.neweconomics.org/programmes/well-being
The Culture and Wellbeing website is a new national resource to support creativity and health http://www.cultureandwellbeing.org.uk/resources/research
praXis arts and health network http://www.praxisartsandhealth.org.uk/ West Midlands website for arts and health
Creative Remedies arts and health website for Staffordshire and the West Midlands http://www.creative-remedies.org.uk