What is arts and health?
Arts and health is the generic term that embraces a range of arts practices occurring primarily in healthcare settings, which brings together the skills and priorities of both arts and health professionals.
Arts Council’s Arts and Health Policy and Strategy, 2010
Founded on a principle of equal partnership between arts and health sectors, arts and health is a specific field of work that is characterised by clear artistic vision, goals and outcomes that seeks to enhance individual and community health and wellbeing. It is a diverse and dynamic practice that moves fluidly between the more traditional formats of exhibition, performance, public art commission, and other environmental enhancement initiatives within healthcare settings, through to participative and collaborative arts practices that challenge and expand ideas about who makes art and where and how it is shown.
Arts and health practice takes place in a range of healthcare settings including but not restricted to hospitals, residential units, daycare centres, hospices, primary care-centres and community based health care settings. It can engage health service users, their carers, visitors and healthcare staff, as well as those involved in the voluntary sector.
Arts and health is not limited to any particular artform. It can include interdisciplinary practice, or any of the artforms, or their related genres, as recognised by the Arts Act 2003 – visual arts, theatre, architecture, film, music, literature, circus, spectacle and dance.
In their Arts and Health Policy and Strategy, The Arts Council distinguished arts and health from related practices as follows:
Arts Therapies – There is a clear distinction between arts and health practice, where a key goal is the experience and production of art, and the arts therapies, where the primary goal is clinical.
Arts and Disability – Arts and health incorporate both artistic and health aims, whereas arts and disability is focused exclusively on the engagement and involvement of people with disabilities.
Other related practices – Arts and health can cross over with any number of other arts practices such as: community- based arts; arts and medical humanities; and arts and science. In addition, an individual artist may choose to explore health themes or content in their work. The degree to which these practices are described as arts and health will depend on the extent to which they incorporate the characteristics described above.