Arts and Health Alliance in South Australia

Yesterday afternoon/evening I attended an Arts and Health Alliance (AaHA) event. The Alliance is a coming together of the three universities (soon maybe two universities) in South Australia to celebrate the many ways that the Arts and Health can collaborate.

At the core of the event was the launch of the report ‘Telling the Story of Arts and Health in South Australia’ by Tully Barnett, Alex Cothren and Joanne Arcuili. The report covers the relationship between Arts and Health and the many projects that have shaped Arts and Health in SA. Attendees were fortunate to receive a printed copy of the report (pictured below), but I’ll indicate on here how others can access the report once I know more details.

In addition to the launch of the report, the event celebrated a number of current Arts and Health Projects, including Arts in Health at the Women’s and Children’s HospitalArts in Health at Flinders Medical Centre, the Pinnaroo Project, and our very own Visualising Mental Health (VMH). Jane Andrew and I were stoked to be able to talk about VMH and despite some slide mishaps, our message got across and I had some great chats in the networking drinks that followed about what VMH is all about and how we’d like to expand it.

A seed funding scheme was announced to support cross-disciplinary, cross-university and industry-connected projects that seek to advance the ways that Arts and Health work together to tackle key health issues. We’ll be putting up an expanded VMH project for that funding. To date, we’ve focused VMH on UniSA Communication Design students, but there is scope (we believe) to expand the idea into many different creative arts. The university where I work (Flinders) has a very strong creative arts program and I’m keen to see if we can do some mental health and wellbeing focused work with those students.

For me, I was expecting the event to activate my inner scientist and get me seeking out unique health interventions to evaluate. And I did have a couple of great conversations about how one might evaluate arts therapies in palliative care. Moreso, the event activated my inner creative. Music and art are neglected pastimes of mine and I found myself wanting to reinvigorate them by finding ways to tie them into my mental health focused work. The consumption and creation of the Arts is thought provoking and activates powerful feelings. In some ways it is strange that creative arts don’t play a bigger role in current mental health science or mental health promotion. VMH is a vehicle through which we can explore novel mental health promotion opportunities through the creative industries.

This was my first Arts and Health Alliance event, but hopefully not my last. The presentation section finished with a vision for the Alliance’s future. A future where the AaHA has a non-profit company structure, having its own board, and being able to seek donation and research funding to continue the activities of its members. A centre of excellence showing how Arts and Health, working together can ‘transform lives and communities’. Once I know more about how you can get involved, I will post here on the VMH blog.

Super keen to see where this heads and have my fingers crossed that VMH can be part of the growth of Arts and Health scene here in South Australia.

My sincere thanks to all of those that made this event happen and for the opportunity to present on VMH

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