Art & Well-Being: Toward A Culture of Health

A Free Guide for Artists, Creative Organizers, Healthcare Providers, Educators, Funders, Policy-Makers, and Communities Responding to Threats to Well-Being

What can art do to nurture a culture of health?

  • Prevention: Art can shine a light on essential truths about our individual and collective well-being.
  • Advocacy: Art can advocate for the rights of those facing health challenges.
  • Treatment: Art can engage, serve, partner, and support those living with health challenges.

Art & Well-Being is for everyone who wishes to bring about this shift in our culture of health. The USDAC published this guide for Citizen Artists who place their gifts at the service of healing, working for both individual and collective well-being, for those who recognize social justice as the foundation of a culture of health. And for medical practitioners, funders, and policymakers who want to understand the critical importance of arts-based interventions.

Art & Well-Being is comprehensive. It includes a framework for understanding a culture of health, one that responds equally to all individual and community needs. Looking at the social determinants of health—such as race, class, and gender—it demonstrates how social justice is the single greatest factor in ensuring well-being. It features three detailed case studies, dozens of project descriptions, and hundreds of links to powerful arts projects, research resources, and detailed accounts for those who want to go even deeper. A section on right relationship covers ethics, partnerships, and much more.

We envision a time when cultural interventions to improve personal and social health are commonplace and well-funded. Imagine not just a beautiful appearance for every hospital and clinic; not just musicians and storytellers on every ward to help people craft the narratives and move to the rhythms of their own healing. Go further and imagine never again having to argue for the necessity of beauty, connection, and purpose to well-being. Imagine the scales falling from policymakers’ eyes, allowing them to finally see that social justice heals. Imagine them investing real power and resources in that truth.

Please stay tuned for more information about other ways to learn and share experiences of arts work toward a culture of health. When you download the guide, you’ll automatically receive updates.

Art & Well-Being: Toward A Culture of Health

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Why Art & Well-Being? Around the world, there’s a vast and impressive body of work that advances a culture of health through arts-based prevention, advocacy, and/or treatment. But despite the evidence, arts-based work that promotes a culture of health just doesn’t get appropriate attention and appreciation in the United States. Three shifts are needed to change that, and the guide addresses all three with information, analysis, practical advice, and abundant resources:

  1. Closing the gap in understanding between a “prevailing world view” that privileges what can be quantified and discounts or dismisses evidence conveyed in other ways. You can’t measure arts engagement the way you assess whether or not people take their medicine or keep their doctor’s appointments. Nuanced, story-based, qualitative evidence has to count, a big change in attitude.
  2. Enlarging understanding from art as an extra flourish for individual treatment—an accompaniment to allopathic medicine—for those suffering from health challenges, instead encompassing art as a means of illuminating and engaging collective risks and opportunities, touching the larger community. Meaning, purpose, and connection are proven to improve health. Arts-based work doesn’t just engage, communicate, and express: it also saves lives!
  3. Broadening the definition of health challenges to include not only individual susceptibilities to infectious and autoimmune diseases, but also environmental hazards and the differential ways they affect people depending on economic status, race and ethnicity, gender and orientation, geographic location and other such factors. The health gap between the highest and lowest income groups in the U.S. is staggering. Changing social conditions and addressing social injustice will have a bigger impact on quality and span of life than any other factor.

As Citizen Artists know, we have to change the story to change the world. Download Art & Well-Being to find inspiration, models, resources, and advice that can power your work for a culture of health.


Our Art & Well-Being Citizen Artist Salon was held on Wednesday, July 25 at 6pm EDT/3pm PDT. We were joined by John Govea, Program Director for Immigrant Rights and Integration, Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund; Marina Tsaplina, Founder and Creative Director, THE BETES; Veena Vasista, Wake Up Artist and Movement Maker, London, Chicago, Santa Fe; and Arlene Goldbard, USDAC Chief Policy Wonk to talk about how social justice is a chief indicator of individual and community health; how art can nurture well-being; and what you can do to build a culture of health.