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engage 39: Visual Arts and Wellbeing


Jane Sillis

Director, engage

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Jane Sillis
engage 39: Visual Arts and Wellbeing
Pages 4
Editor: Barbara Dougan
Spring 2017
Published by engage, London

This journal focuses on wellbeing and the contribution that engagement in the visual arts makes to the wellbeing of communities. Articles explore interventions, which support people whose wellbeing has been compromised by their circumstances, by ageing, physical or mental illness, for example. This is a timely moment to explore this important issue with the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing due to report later in 2017.

Since 2009, engage Cymru have developed an impressive range of projects, which prioritises the wellbeing of participants and has set up a thriving arts, health and wellbeing network. This work echoes the concern of both the Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales to support health and wellbeing through the arts. engage Cymru initiatives have included working with socially isolated older people and their carers, and people with mental illness working with art and artists. The benefits of the programmes for participants has been notable; a carer for an older person with dementia commented,

“Projects like this make carers last longer!”

While a project participant with mental ill health issues reported,

“It was a major self-esteem boost for us.”

A similar story is told in articles in this Journal. Jayne Howard describes older people enjoying engaging with contemporary art in a project ran in partnership with The Exchange, Penzance, and Heather Kay, South London Gallery, shares evaluation from a successful arts programme for parents with mental health issues who have young children.

engage Cymru initiated an arts and health network in 2013. The network now has more than 80 members, artists, arts organisations, health professionals, local authorities, higher education institutions and health boards. As a consequence of the network, a Cross Party Group for Arts and Health in Wales has been established, championed by Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government. The arts, health and wellbeing network have also shared expertise across the arts,and health sectors through a toolkit created with seed funding from Artwork Cymru on artists working in hospitals.

In February the engage team had a wellbeing week, where we reflected on wellbeing in the workplace and tried out some of the techniques described in journal articles, such as mindfulness. The week was a great reminder of how important it is to take care of both our own and our colleagues’ wellbeing, as well as the value of initiating projects that support others.


engage 39

engage 39: Visual Arts and Wellbeing

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