The National Endowment for the Arts Guide to Community-Engaged Research in the Arts and Health

In partnership with the NEA's Interagency Task Force on the Arts & Human Development

Jeffrey Chapline and Julene K. Johnson

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From the report's "Preface":

"This guide, co-authored by Julene Johnson (University of California, San Francisco) and Jeffrey Chapline (New Art Horizons), entails many different kinds of collaboration. First, there is the fortuitous partnership of the authors themselves—one, a cognitive neuroscientist and National Institutes of Health-funded researcher examining the effects of community choir programs on health and well-being; the other, an artist, an arts consultant, and the innovator of cross-generational arts programs serving the Bay Area.

Second, the guide itself is a blueprint for collaboration, among academic researchers and arts-in-health practitioners, and among both these groups and the larger communities they serve (hence the lynchpin phrase community-engaged research, in the title of this guide).

Third, there is the deeply collaborative impulse behind the guide. At multiple meetings of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development—a coalition representing 19 federal entities—members expressed and examined the value of such a document. This guide is intended to help arts organizations and biomedical or behavioral researchers in forming strategic alliances, in reconciling different vocabularies, in identifying study goals and methods, and in bringing community members along as equal partners.

Professionally-trained researchers can help arts organizations and artists to understand the efficacy and effectiveness of their programs; to validate, improve, and replicate these programs as health interventions; and to obtain broader support from funders, policy-makers, and the community members who are most likely to benefit.

Arts professionals, meanwhile, bring specialized skills, talents, and methods that are critical to program delivery; but they also can identify questions, issues, and concerns of importance to their artists and audiences. They can help participating study-subjects to explore social or emotional factors linked to their health condition or to the resulting intervention, and they can help to ensure smooth communications between the researchers and study subjects.

Apropos of communications: this guide is intended equally to serve arts professionals and biomedical or behavioral researchers. Here, the term 'arts professional' is broadly defined to include practicing community visual and performing artists, arts administrators, designers, and arts therapists, plus their associated organizations and community collaborators.

Credentialed arts therapies include music therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, art therapy, and others. Although 'creative' or 'expressive' arts therapy is gaining ground as a descriptor, this guide uses the term “arts therapy.” With the term 'arts' (as in 'arts professionals' or 'arts programs or interventions'), we refer broadly to the visual, performing, and literary arts, as well as to individual forms of visual art, music, theater, dance, folk arts, design, poetry, creative writing, and other artistic creations through traditional and non-traditional media.

Arts professionals—including arts therapists—work in a variety of settings, whether museums, performing art venues, schools, civic centers, prisons, hospitals, or clinics. Likewise, the biomedical and behavioral researchers most likely to benefit from this guide may come from different backgrounds. Such researchers commonly work in academic centers, in government agencies or nonprofit organizations, or in private research firms.

Arts professionals and researchers who have an interest in studying the effects of the arts on health, in filling other gaps in knowledge, or in extending research to new programmatic or therapeutic areas, are encouraged to use this document. It gives practical tips on how to engage in research collaborations and how to design and implement meaningful arts-and-health research studies."