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 has explored these questions in-depth with artists, leaders in public health and community development, and researchers. The most ambitious product of this exploration is the new multi-faceted report authored by Metris Arts Consulting: WE-Making: How Arts & Culture Unite People to Work Toward Community Well-Being. A 2019 convening of artists, researchers, public health leaders, and community developers yielded many insights and stories which are reproduced in the Proceedings and Thematic Analysis created by the Center for Arts in Medicine of the University of Florida. The Proceedings can be found here. Also available here is a new memorandum by PolicyLink recommending future action for practitioners to advance social cohesion in community development, public health, and the arts. We look forward to these materials becoming valuable to the artists, culture bearers, and leaders from whom the partners have learned so much about building power and sustaining community.
To learn more about the project email us here.