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About this issue:

It’s a great time to be talking about arts and health. From where I sit it’s a time of new energy, new creativity and new determination.

Tim Joss, founder and Chief Executive of Aesop, an incubator of arts enterprises with a social purpose, at ‘The Art of Health in Wales’ Conference, 2016.

Joss’s optimism is understandable at a time when there are innumerable inspiring arts and wellbeing projects, a surge in organisations and networks focused on arts in health and wellbeing, and significant policy initiatives in different parts of the globe.

Despite around forty years of work to try and get the role of the arts in health adopted in mainstream healthcare, the arts are still seen by the vast majority of arts professionals as ‘fluff’; very nice but totally unable to deliver robust health outcomes. Whereas art therapy, which is a different but complementary area of work, has become accepted and is widely practiced. Now — and since the publication of Engage Journal issue 30 on the topic of Arts and Healthcare in the summer of 2012 — the agenda has expanded from health to a much broader concept of wellbeing. In doing so the range of work encompassed by arts in health and wellbeing has also expanded, as have the challenges.