Arts and health

Introduction to arts and health

The Arts Council understands arts and health to be a generic term embracing a range of arts practices occurring primarily in healthcare settings, which bring together the skills and priorities of both arts and health professionals. Good arts and health practice is characterised by a clear artistic vision, goals and outcomes. It aims to promote health and wellbeing by improving quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings. Arts and health can involve all artforms, and incorporate a variety of approaches, including conventional arts production and presentation, arts participation and environmental enhancement. The Arts Council makes a distinction between arts and health practice and the arts therapies. In the former, the primary focus is on the experience and production of art, in the latter, the primary goal is clinical. The Arts Council supports practice where artistic outcomes are prioritised as a means of enhancing health and wellbeing and does not support practice where therapy is the primary goal or outcome.

The Arts Council arts and health policy and strategy outlines the values that underpin its approach to arts and health practice, and strategic actions for the five-year period 2010 - 2014. The policy and strategy was developed following a period of consultation and research with the arts and health sector, which included Vital Signs, a series of arts and health events that took place in October 2009.

Within the Arts Council, arts and health is the responsibility of the Arts Participation Team. Arts participation is a core value across all areas of the Arts Council’s work as reflected in the current mission statement, which commits to increasing public access, participation and engagement in the arts, as well as assisting artists of all disciplines to make work of excellence.  This includes artists who base their practice in the area of arts and health.

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Financial support

There are a number of key agencies, funded by us, who have a central role in supporting these areas of work. Two such organisations are Helium and Waterford Healing Arts Trust.

The Arts Council offers a wide range of financial supports across artforms and arts practices, including arts and health. Those supports, direct and indirect, that are available are described in detail in financial support. They include bursaries, projects and travel and training awards, and the Artist in the community scheme, which is managed externally by Create.

As the development agency for the arts, the Arts Council has commissioned, assisted or published reports and studies outlining how the Council will seek to enrich provision and practice in all the arts, including in arts and health. These can be accessed by clicking on research and publications.

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Arts and health case study - Puppet Portal

The Puppet Portal Project aimed to merge the areas of art, technology and health, in order to facilitate children in hospital to create interactive puppetry performances. For further details, click here.

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The national arts and health website was launched in October 2011 by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D at Dublin Dental Hospital. Other speakers at the event included Pat Moylan, Chair of the Arts Council and Dr Nazih Eldin, Head of Health Promotion at the HSE. is an independent, national arts and health website developed by the Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) and Create (the national development agency for collaborative arts in social and community contexts). The development of the website was initiated and funded by the Arts Council as an important element in implementing its Arts and Health Policy, which was published in December 2010.

The website provides a resource and focal point for arts and health in Ireland via information, support, advice and news, and generates discussion between artists, arts organisations, health service users, carers, healthcare professionals and others interested in the dynamic area of arts and health.

Note: The image from, which is featured on Arts Council home page, comes from ‘The Amulet’ project by Marie Brett at Cork University Maternity Hospital (2009-2011). Photo by Marie Brett.

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Memory Dress,  Charlotte Donovan and Marie Brett, 2006-2007
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Memory Dress: Lost Children, 2006 - 2007, Artists Marie Brett and Charlotte Donovan with patients, staff and visitors from St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork (Photo: Justin Farrelly).

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