There is a growing body of evidence which shows that cultural connections make a significant and meaningful contribution to personal health and wellbeing. Passive engagement as an audience member at cinemas, galleries and theatres is good for you, but active participation in the arts; at classes, in choirs and through dance, is an even more powerful influence. The Scottish Government’s recently published Draft Cultural Strategy highlights the importance of Arts & Health and aspires to develop this creative and social medium for the betterment of us all.
Living life with a Long Term Condition (LTC) can be limiting. Loss of income, of status, mobility, stamina, communication and confidence, are all possible consequences and for very many people this can lead to social withdrawal and isolation. How then can we bring the benefits of cultural participation to people who feel they have been left behind and that there is no accepted place for them at any table?
Where and how can we bridge that cultural divide?
Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust (THAT) and Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Learning Team have collaborated for 13 years in the development and delivery of short printmaking classes for adults with significant Long Term Health Conditions (LTC). This has become an important model for Creative Engagement in a mainstream cultural setting with participants from a wide range of health conditions including Stroke, Dementia, Parkinson’s, COPD (breathing difficulties), MS and others, able to engage through this multi-medium creative discipline.
Originating from a once a weekly programme of 8 sessions in 2005 as part of THAT’s Stroke and Art (ST/ART) Project, this partnership has grown to become a twice a year annual programme and a core relationship for both organisations. Intensive three day modules in various forms of printmaking are delivered as Summer Printschools (introductory) and Autumn Printschools (intermediate) in the professional artists Printmakers Workshop within DCA. All programmes have been evaluated and the combined evidence shows that getting the ‘hit’ from making prints empowers people, promotes social inclusion, enhances their quality of life and so makes a significant contribution to their health and well being.
The quantitative and qualitative evidence of the last 10 years delivery of the ‘Printschools’ clearly demonstrates the benefits that can be achieved. From 2008-2017, 342 self selecting participants, were recruited from THAT run specialist community art programmes and engaged through the ST/ART@DCA ‘Printschools’ programmes, working with experienced printmakers to explore their creative potential.
Baseline profile information was collected on each participant before their programme as were their views of their experience after their programme. Artists’ observations, participants’ anecdotal comments and a substantial visual archive of activity and creative out puts provide additional valuable information. Participants have ranged from 25 to 86 years old and there has been a more or less equal uptake from men and women.
Programme attendance over the ten years has been remarkably high (98%) for such a medically vulnerable group and their commitment to the experience is further reflected in 100% of participants wishing to access further programme opportunities. Self reporting of psychosocial benefits is also strong with more than 60% of all participants reporting improved mood, confidence, communication, concentration and socialisation.
A key element of the programme is the public sharing of the work produced at each of the Printschools, with a framed exhibition display in the DCA with a social opening night reception and public viewing for 4/5 days.
We value the work produced and honour it in the same way as all other work by artists.
Over the years we have adjusted and changed the different forms of printmaking but retained the successful and beneficial approach. We have had participants return regularly and others progress to new opportunities. Participants have changed others perceptions of them as well as their own, knowing now that they have abilities and that their condition shouldn’t be a barrier to participation, enjoyment and personal achievement.
Chris Kelly, Projects Coordinator, Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust
View Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust Finalist Poster which will be displayed at the VHS Annual Conference: START@DCA Printschools