Social Cohesion & Well-Being

The arts are indispensable for their power to build community with unique depth and meaning, and the diverse cases found throughout this website and beyond are testimony to that power.  But how does that creative process of bringing people closer together or bridging across divides actually happen? Where has it been found to advance health equity and community well-being?  Are there lessons in the research and in the experience of the people who do this work that can be turned into tools for positive social change?
At a time when “social cohesion” is challenged in new ways by “social distancing,” and when “place-based” art has come to mean arts participation with neighbors whom we only see at a distance or virtually, one well might ask whether resources of this nature are hopelessly obsolete. Far from it. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic fall-out and the protests related to racially motivated violence and discrimination have brought into national focus the persistent long-term threats to health equity. These crises have laid bare the ill effects of social isolation, social scarring, and social divides. These tools — and the lessons learned in their development — remain broadly applicable to those seeking to advances social cohesion, health equity, and community well-being.
A project on Social Cohesion, Arts, and Health Equity in which these questions have been explored in depth is nearing completion and its products will be disseminated in early 2021 on this page and through the networks of the eight participating organizations and funders. They include a multi-faceted report authored by Metris Arts Consulting, the proceedings and thematic analysis of a 2019 convening of artists, researchers, public health leaders, and community developers, by the Center for Arts in Medicine of the University of Florida, and memoranda by PolicyLink recommending future action for practice and research in community development, public health, and the arts. The Proceedings from that convening can be read here. We look forward to these materials becoming valuable to the fields from which the partners have learned so much about building power and sustaining community.
To learn more about the project email us here.