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Arts and Health Australia

Critical Mass

Since 2011, I have arranged three 'critical mass' gatherings of practitioners and researchers to explore community-based arts in health in a global context, identify key issues for international collaboration in both practice and research, and envision where the common ground lies for effective advocacy and community engagement in exchange programmes. When participants at these meetings were invited to explain what were the principles and values that informed their interest in community-based arts in health and their current lines of enquiry, a number of recurring points were made that can be summarized as follows:

My presentation will reflect on these points and their implication for practice and research in an increasingly inter-linked international field of arts and health.

Mike WhiteMike White

Mike is a Senior Research Fellow in Arts and Health at the Centre for Medical Humanities and St. Chad’s College, University of Durham, UK. He studied English at Exeter College, Oxford, but ran away from an early career in academia to explore pioneering arts initiatives in social justice. He has been involved in arts in health work since 1988 when he set up the first arts in primary care project in the UK at Brierley Hill. His work for the Centre for Medical Humanities has included nurturing arts in health projects in schools and communities, workforce development programmes in creativity in healthcare, project-based evaluations, and audits and literature reviews of arts in health for Government agencies. He is currently developing the arts in health component of an inter-disciplinary 5-year research programme in medical humanities, funded by major grant from the Wellcome Trust, which explores the question “what makes for human flourishing?”

In 2005, Mike was awarded a fellowship of the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to research community-based arts in health and build national/international links in this field. A resulting book Arts Development in Community Health: a social tonic was published by Radcliffe in 2009, and in June this year Mike convened the first international ‘critical mass’ meeting to set up ongoing exchanges of research and practice.

Mike was previously at Gateshead Council where he developed many arts in health and arts for older people projects, as well as public art commissions such as the landmark Angel of the North by Antony Gormley. He has also worked as Development Director of the influential celebratory theatre company Welfare State International, and a long time ago he was a founder member of WOMAD, the international music festival agency. He has many published articles and has lectured widely on arts in health at universities and conferences in the UK, several EC countries, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Canada and USA. This year’s AHA conference marks Mike’s seventh visit to Australia in five years, so he now considers himself a part-time Australian.

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