Asking the Way – Directions and Misdirections in Arts in Health: Mike White
Date uploaded: April 14, 2014
Asking the Way – Directions and Misdirections in Arts in Health
Commissioned and published by ixia, the public art think tank 14th April 2014
Arts in health is at a fork in the road. The hard-paved route, The Empirical Highway, leads to probable damnation by way of austerity culture, a narrowing definition of accredited practice, and evidence calls that are signalled through a medical model of health. Those who venture on this path will find their creativity randomised, controlled and trialled. The other route, which I term The Lantern Road, tracks its progress through reflective practice, has lit beacons of new traditions in participatory health promotion, and affirms relationship-based working as the way to a sustainable vision of community-based arts in health supported by inter-disciplinary research.
As the World Health Organisation declared in 2008 “Evidence is only one part of what swings policy decisions – political will and institutional capacity are important too. But more than simply academic exercises, research is needed to generate new understanding in practical, accessible ways, recognising the added value of globally expanded knowledge networks and communities” . In this article, I want to reflect on some recent experiences and observations in my work portfolio that suggest where that ‘new understanding’ might be found. En route I hope to reveal both the inherent tensions and resilience of arts in health at a difficult juncture brought on by the search for evidence of benefit, funding pressures and the downbeat organisational re-structure of public services.
The About Author:
Mike White is Senior Research Fellow in Arts in Health at The Centre for Medical Humanities and St. Chad's College, Durham University. He has over 25 years’ experience of managing and researching arts projects addressing community health issues and is the author of 'Arts Development in Community Health: a social tonic' (Radcliffe Publishing, 2009).