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Arts and Health Australia

Anna Goulding

Dementia and Imagination – the role of socially engaged visual arts programmes in connecting communities

At the core is the changing nature of communities, particularly the demand for people with dementia to be able to age in place and the need for the development of dementia friendly communities. The co-produced research spans disciplines, connecting professionals from the arts and humanities, social sciences, gerontology and economics with participatory arts practice, art galleries, health care and policy partners, people with dementia and their carers.

My talk focuses on what makes an effective, sustainable and socially engaged visual art programme that improves connectivity, promotes meaning and enhances well-being. It addresses whether different models of delivery in different venues makes a difference to the processes and outcomes of engagement. It questions how changes in community connectivity can be demonstrated and what sort of community links can be fostered.

Importantly, I will examine how the value and benefits (and disbenefits) from multi-disciplinary methodological approaches can be synthesised and communicated. To do this, I will take a critical look at the research tools and frameworks we have used, and describe the methodological challenges. Finally, the talk will present initial findings on the impact on people with dementia and their carers and family members.

Arts on Prescription – challenges of evidence and embedding practice

I set out to investigate why, despite the fact that Arts on Prescription have been running in the UK since 1994, and the encouraging rhetoric from the Department of Health, programmes do not receive long-term, strategic support.

My talk makes an original contribution to debates over funding by situating the barriers to embedding Art and Prescription programmes in the real world – interviewing a range of key professionals from both arts and health sectors provided insights into their perceptions around the challenge of evidencing outcomes.

My talk has important implications for arts organisations developing evaluation as it unpicks the challenge of fulfilling requirements for evidence that cross the different paradigms of arts and health. By comparing a Randomised Controlled Trial, considered the gold standard of research in Health, with a more typical evaluation produced by an arts charity using mixed methods, I argue that the qualitative approach is more appropriate in terms of capturing subtle shifts in participants’ affect.

Through comparing the methodologies currently used to evidence outcomes, I suggest that both quantitative and qualitative methodologies are needed, alongside the development of some form of cost-benefit analysis. Whilst recognising the pressure to report positive outcomes, the papers caution against over-stating benefits and note that qualitative findings as currently presented can be dismissed as anecdotal.

My work recommends using the constructs of cultural and social capital as methodological tools to analyse the processes participants go through. When interlinked they allow the role of the art and the development of social relationships to be articulated, which is essential if arguing the unique benefits of this work for older people.

Anna GouldingAnna Goulding

Anna Goulding has extensive experience in co-producing research with older people in order to understand and help develop their social and cultural capital. Her research in the field of art consumption, lifelong learning in the art gallery specifically tackles issues relating to wellbeing in old age.

She is currently Principal Investigator on The role of creative interventions in fostering connectivity and resilience in older people, an AHRC-funded project critically reflecting on a range of approaches to developing resilience including community-led design, visual arts interventions, gardening and theatre.

Anna was co-investigator on Contemporary visual art and identity construction - wellbeing amongst older people, funded by the cross-research council New Dynamics of Ageing Programme, which used a qualitative approach to gauge a range of older people's reactions to visiting contemporary art galleries. This led to a follow-on project which contributed to research-informed arts policy and interventions designed to improve the lives of older people.

She is also on the management group and researcher for Dementia and Imagination: Connecting communities and developing wellbeing through socially engaged visual arts practice funded by the AHRC Connected Communities Programmes. This project brings together researchers from social sciences in areas such as dementia, gerontology, psychology and economics with research in the visual arts, cultural policy and museum studies. 

The project aims to look at developing wellbeing and connecting communities through socially engaged visual arts practice. With a background in gallery education, Anna is keen that research has a practical application and feeds into contemporary gallery education practice, providing meaningful experiences for participants.

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