Exploring how art and culture contributes to health and wellbeing

The Norfolk Arts Forum gave a seminar inviting professionals from local art and culture schemes, Local Authority Officers, researchers and students to explain how Art and Culture has the potential of enhancing the quality of life for individuals and communities alike.

The presentations throughout the day drew on research projects and activity based projects delivered across Norfolk that demonstrated how art/culture programmes can save public services money, has the ability to deliver against a local authority’s statutory responsibilities, at reduced costs, and enhance the quality of life for everyone in Norfolk.

The seminar opened with a speech from the Norfolk County Council portfolio holder, stating “Art and Culture are so warped it is accessible to all equality groups and levels of academic knowledge. Accessible to people who need support such as vulnerable individuals, those with mental health concerns, loneliness and more. Art and culture can support them socially, enhance communication and is a creative outlet.”

Art and culture is an untapped potential to improve individual and community wellbeing tenfold.

Local Authorities have a statutory obligation to support people. The “how” is wide open to interpretation. Arts and Culture is an underused tool to deliver those statutory responsibilities.

Research and studies presented during the day would go on to highlight that Art and Culture initiatives are pathways to address obesity, diabetes, depression, dementia, isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, misery and mental health and learning needs such as Autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Achieved through:

  • Art/culture gives respite (to carers and the cared for)
  • Gives social inclusion to individuals and fosters good relations in larger groups
  • Brings communities together – community cohesion
  • Education builds confidence
  • Encourages engagement

Keynote speakers during the day were Hedley Swain (Arts Council England), Professor Venu Dhupa (Nottingham Trent University), Professor Norma Daykin (University of Winchester), David McDaid (London School of Economics), Colin Stott (Norfolk Museums Service), Jan Holden (NorfolkLibrary and Information Service), Natalie Jode (Creative Arts East) and Gary Tuson (Norfolk Records Office).

I personally found the presentations from Venu Dhupa, David McDaid and Norma Daykin the most compelling in demonstrating how much arts benefit individuals and communities in a positive and cost-effective way. Art is a lifeline for a large portion of people, breaking down barriers and opening up communication. Art projects have the potential to be a great benefit to local services, diversifying how public services are delivered and by who in the future.

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