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Art and Wellbeing

February 17, 200617 February 2006

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Given that “creativity is inextricably linked to our wellbeing”, this Australian report highlights case studies regarding the connections between community cultural development and seven areas: health; sustainable development; public housing and places; rural revitalization; community strengthening; active citizenship; social inclusion and cultural diversity.

Community cultural development, involving a wide range of artforms and various creative outcomes, “uses involvement in artistic and other creative processes as a way of exploring and expressing our cultures and the values underpinning these cultures and our society. Community cultural development processes can therefore play a vital role in helping people to think critically about their experiences.”

The report argues that there is a “growing awareness of the significance of culture as a factor in wellbeing and an interest in integrating cultural development into those government policies and strategies concerned with wellbeing”. Furthermore, “the balanced integration of social, economic and environmental dimensions is gaining recognition as a vital first step towards community wellbeing and ecological sustainability”.

The report also argues that, through both the instrumental and the transformational impacts of the arts, “engagement in community cultural development processes can achieve and challenge government policy and decision-making”. The case studies presented in the report, which could be considered best-case scenarios, explore how community cultural development can help with complex social, environmental and economic challenges and help strengthen trust, knowledge, leadership and social capital.

There are barriers, however, including competing knowledge bases, too much reliance on technical knowledge, poor communication of technical knowledge and the privileging of one type of knowledge over another. “Another key problem is that the centralization of power can act to prevent communities from expressing their values, realizing self-determination and achieving their sense of identity.”

The report concludes that “community-based creative processes, when embedded into an agency’s policies and strategies, can be very powerful in strengthening the knowledge, engagement, social capital and leadership required to achieve policy objectives”.

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