A strategy to intrinsically link art with health across the South East was launched in Bega on Monday night.
South East Arts, which covers the region serviced by Snowy Monaro, Bega Valley and Eurobodalla Shires, publically announced its SWELL initiative to a room full of potential project partners and supporters.
Invited guests from across the region were welcomed by the Djaadjawan Dancers – fresh from their second place at the Dance Rites competition on the steps of the Sydney Opera House – and the eccentric musical stylings of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen.
Emceeing the evening was Ian Campbell, newly appointed to the South East Arts board.
“Arts and Health” is the practice of using the arts to improve health and wellbeing, as well as enhancing health care experiences for patients and their support networks.
Speaking to the crowd in attendance at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre, South East Arts chairwoman Bettina Richter said Arts and Health was much more than paintings on the walls of a hospital.
“It’s diverse and dynamic. It’s a vision to build stronger, healthier and happier communities,” Ms Richter said.
“Research shows that arts and culture can play a significant role in achieving health and wellbeing outcomes of patients, staff, clients and visitors to health services and within the broader community.”
Ms Richter also shared an emotional personal connection to the benefits of arts to the health sector.
She spoke of the grief in seeing her husband stricken by cancer, spending his final months in a stark Sydney hospital ward with only a TV for entertainment.
She said she brought photos from home to plaster over the walls and a CD player so they could share the joy of his favourite albums and the shared memories the music evoked.
“In some way it was like I started my own arts and health practice, a diversionary therapy to get through the hard times,” Ms Richter said.
Jenny Symons, chairwoman of the Southern NSW Local Health District also addressed the invited guests, saying there was a definite role for the cultural sector in health.
She also said the launch of “SWELL – The Art of Being Well” was perfectly timed given the NSW government only recently released its own Arts and Health framework.
“This regional strategy is ideally timed to build partnerships between the creative sector and health professionals,” Ms Symons said.
South East Arts general manager Andrew Gray outlined the regional strategy and focus of SWELL.
He said Swell was looking to support the development of arts and health approaches and initiatives in health care settings across the region, while facilitating connections and alliances between the arts and cultural community and health services.
It would also build the capacity of arts and health practitioners to make meaningful contributions to both artistic practice and health and wellbeing goals
SWELL’s regional project focus will look to the cultural integrity, health and wellbeing of Aboriginal communities; mental health and resilience among young people; and creative ageing for older people.
South East Arts has opened a public fund and is calling for tax-deductible donations from individuals, businesses and service groups to support the work of SWELL. Thanks to the support of Creative Partnerships, every dollar donated will be matched until March 2017.
For more details on SWELL and how to support South East Arts, visit southeastarts.org.au.
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