Creating Cultural Citizenship. Understanding the impact of participatory arts on community health and wellbeing, Connected Communities
Improvements to health and wellbeing is one of the components of the Cultural Value Project; indeed, one where we are supporting a significant number of projects (some of them have already been introduced on this blog and more are still to come). Our objective is first and foremost to understand the processes at work in arts and health practices – this, we believe, is a prerequisite to successful evaluation. As revealed by on-going work in this area, meeting this challenge may require that we think beyond the classical RCT approaches used in drug testing, break down the silos existing in health provision, as well as marry different perspectives from the humanities, social and biomedical sciences. Today’s entry from Norma Daykin (who received a Development Award under the Connected Communities’ Communities, Cultures, Health and Well-Being strand) introduces yet another nuanced voice into the debate. Norma suggests how – in order to appreciate the health benefits of participation in activities such as visual arts and music – we should move beyond the ‘medical model […] focused on individual health outcomes’.
This development project explored the concept of Cultural Citizenship through cross-disciplinary investigation of the role of participatory arts in promoting community health and wellbeing. I had the pleasure of leading this ambitious collaboration between six UK universities as well as project partners drawn from national and regional arts and health advocacy organisations.
‘Cultural Citizenship’ is potentially a strong concept that can illuminate the role of arts and culture in connecting communities and promoting (or limiting) health and wellbeing. At present there is considerable interest in identifying health and wellbeing benefits of participation in activities such as visual arts, music and creative writing. However, much research is framed by the medical model and focuses on individual health outcomes. This project embraced the macro level of policy and socioeconomic context and the meso level of networks and advocacy organisations as well as the micro level of practitioners’ and participants’ experience of arts and health projects, programmes and practices. By introducing questions of citizenship, it broadened the focus of research to include social impacts of arts participation.
The Cultural Citizenship concept has great potential but it is currently very broad: its potential cannot be realised until the concept itself is further elaborated. Our project proposed to do this through the lens of the humanities-based perspective of virtue ethics (VE), which builds on moral philosophy to promote understanding of how society could function for the wellbeing of all. Importantly, this approach identifies the key virtues that are important to particular practice communities, in our case the practice-based communities that are connected through their commitment to participatory arts. By working closely with these communities, we sought to illuminate practitioners’ narratives through a VE lens and to identify the key virtues that are seen as promoting positive forms of citizenship as well as health and wellbeing within the arts and health field. The ultimate ambition was to develop a strong Cultural Citizenship concept that would enable the arts and health sector to influence current policy and practice.
Significantly, while arts participation has many established benefits, we also acknowledged the potentially limiting effects of the arts in culture and commercial media, including celebrity culture and elite arts. By focusing on citizenship, the project brought these wider discourses into the frame of arts and health research in order to strengthen our understanding of arts transcendence in the context of community wellbeing.
Our development project has identified three research questions:
1. What challenges, virtues, narratives and forms of practice excellence do arts and health participants and practitioners identify in relationship to community connectivity, health and wellbeing?
2. How might these narratives be developed through the concept of Cultural Citizenship?
3. How might Creative Citizenship inform understanding of the role of arts in generating (or diminishing) connectivity, health and wellbeing?
What is needed to take this further is an ambitious, mixed-methods study involving coproduction with research participants and stakeholders. This has the potential to provide and elaborate a powerful concept of Cultural Citizenship to guide theory and practice development.
Principal Investigator: Professor Norma Daykin, UWE Bristol
Project Team: Professor Vanessa Burholt, Swansea University, Dr Mervyn Conroy, Birmingham University, Professor Lynn Froggett, UCLAN, Matthew Jones, UWE, Bristol, Dr Rebecca Lawthom, Manchester Metropolitan University, Professor John Mohan, Southampton University, Ann Crabtree, independent arts consultant.
Project Partners: London Arts in Health Forum; Arts and Health South West.