Building resilience through community arts practice: A scoping study with disabled young people and young people facing mental health challenges

This research project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council explored how community visual arts practice can help young people flourish and connect with their communities despite adverse experiences they may have faced. The research focused on young people with disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges, and explored the potential resilience benefits of visual arts for these people. The project involved a review of existing research findings in this area, drawing on the academic literature in the fields of resilience research, disability studies, arts for health practice and geographies of health and impairment, and literature housed on community and policy websites. An expert advisory panel informed the framework for this review.

The research project also involved a series of collaborative arts workshops in Brighton and Hove, with young people with moderate learning disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges. These workshops, exploring creativity and ideas of self and belonging, were held in conjunction with the University of Brighton, our community partners Art in Mind, and inclusive arts practitioner Sue Winter.  The ten weekly sessions held at the Phoenix arts centre in Brighton commenced on 30 April 2012, culminated in a summer exhibition.

We held an interim practitioner workshop on ‘Building resilience through community arts’ on Friday 12 October 2012, at Community Base in Brighton. This workshop was targeted at community arts commissioners, managers and practitioners in the South East and academics interested in learning about resilience and sharing their existing knowledge of the links between visual arts for disadvantaged young people, resilience and resilient communities.

Three key objectives of this project were:

1) Establish the potential relationships between community visual arts practice and resilience amongst disabled young people and young people facing mental health complexities.

2) Explore and identify appropriate community visual arts practices and methods for achieving resilience in young people.

3) Make initial ‘good practice’ recommendations for arts practitioners and managers in this field and share this knowledge. This included the development of good practice ‘visual arts for resilience’ resources which have been uploaded to the website and can be accessed here – Arts for Resilience Resources.

Core selfPhoto credit Emily Gagnon.