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Art Fun

Routledge Handbook of Arts and Health

July, 2023

Dr Nicola Holt of DRAW is pleased to be Editing the Routledge Handbook of Arts and Health, due for publication in 2025, with Prof. Victoria Tischler, Dr Elisabetta Corvo and Dr Sofia Vougioukalou

Routledge Handbook of Arts and Health: Aims and content 

The arts and health is established as a distinct academic discipline, with specific journals (e.g., Arts & Health), a growing evidence base, expanding practice and policy recommendations. However, as yet, the discipline lacks a comprehensive handbook to define, survey, and critique the discipline. The aim of the proposed handbook is to meet this gap: define the discipline of the arts and health, explain why it is important, and to survey historical developments, current practice, research, theory and policy. This will be done with a critical perspective, and with consideration of emerging and future directions. An interdisciplinary perspective will be taken, as well as considering cross-cultural perspectives and applications. The Handbook will draw on the expertise of leading figures in the field within individual chapters. An overview and critical consideration of arts and health research and practice is currently much needed to synthesise and unify the discipline, and disseminate this to students, academics, practitioners and the wider public, providing a scholarly overview of the discipline that is forward looking and anticipates future directions. 

The Handbook is structured in five sections, in order to provide: 1) an historical and contextual perspective on the arts and health, defining the field (what it is and what it is not), introducing models and frameworks to help conceptualise the discipline, and considering the context of practice and policy from international perspectives; 2) an overview of the main creative domains used in the arts and health, considering case studies, their evidence base and active ingredients, such as the performing arts, creative writing and the visual arts, since these draw on multi-disciplinary perspectives that are not often synthesised in the literature; 3) Examining the use of the arts for health across the lifespan, highlighting how the arts are used to help with specific health needs and with specific populations, providing a more detailed overview of research and practice in key areas, such as adult mental health, dementia care, children and young people; 4) consideration will be given to how the arts can be used and integrated with specific health professions, such as within primary care, public health interventions, psychiatry  and occupational therapy; and 5) theoretical perspectives, debates and models for understanding the impact of the arts for health will be explored, including biological, social and critical perspectives. The handbook will end with a conclusion considering trends, complexities and future directions for the discipline. 

Through these five themes, the Handbook aims to provide an introduction and thorough grounding of the key areas in which the arts are applied in health, and to explore and elucidate current trends and debates, with the hope that this will fuel future research and discussion. The discipline of the arts and health is at a critical stage where there is a sufficient and diverse body of research and work that requires a text to identify and synthesise, but also at a stage where critical analysis is being called for and reflection about future directions, in terms of the quality of evidence, considerations of the limits of arts of health interventions and developing best practice (how research links into practice), for example. The proposed text aims to guide the reader through the current evidence, debates and issues in a comprehensive and timely manner. 

Contents: Topic areas 

General introduction 

Historical and contemporary context of the arts for health 

  • History of arts for health  

  • Positioning the arts and health: models and frameworks 

  • Review of recent scoping reviews and status of the field 

  • Arts and health practice and policy worldwide 

  • Critical perspectives on the arts for health 

The arts in practice: Domains of arts in health  

  • Cultural participation (Art galleries, museums, concerts, festivals)  

  • Visual arts and crafts (art, drawing, painting, sculpture, knitting, crafts) 

  • Dance 

  • Music (playing, listening, instruments, choirs) 

  • Creative writing (expressive writing, reading groups, poetry, journaling) 

  • Drama, theatre and film 

Arts and health across the lifespan 

  • Arts and health for children and young people 

  • Arts and maternal mental health 

  • Arts and health in the context of adult mental health  

  • Arts and health and chronic conditions 

  • The arts and migration  

  • Arts in the context of trauma 

  • Arts and health for older adults/dementia 

  • Arts and palliative/end of life care 

Arts in allied health professions and settings 

  • The arts within psychology professions

  • Art and psychiatry 

  • Arts and general practice (including art on prescription) 

  • Occupational therapy 

  • The arts as a public health and health promotion tool  

  • Art in hospitals (and nursing) 

  • Art in prisons 

  • Art in schools/education 

Theoretical and emerging perspectives on the arts and health 

  • Active ingredients/mechanisms of art for health interventions 

  • Neurobiology/biology of the arts for health 

  • Social theory and the arts for health  

  • What can we learn from positive psychology and the psychology of creativity?  

  • Epidemiology and arts and health 

  • Ethics and guidelines for practice

  • Research and evaluation frameworks

Conclusion and future directions 

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Thriving Communities Evaluation Report

June, 2023

Thriving Communities Bristol developed partnerships between grassroots organisations with the aim of improving practice and knowledge of social prescribing in the city.

Between June 2021 and June 2022, the project’s partners identified need and developed six innovative social prescribing programmes involving aspects of art, nature, and physical activity. Participants from targeted groups, such as women experiencing chronic pain, carers and children, and young people experiencing anxiety were referred to the activities by health professionals.

Project partners reflected on the processes involved and evaluated how and whether the programmes improved participant wellbeing.


The partnership network established has led to further collaboration and successfully funded activity using local and community assets. Programmes were well received by participants who experienced improvements in mood, attention, and loneliness. They described feelings of increased social connection, self-efficacy, confidence, and moments of awe, beauty, and ‘escape’. They valued the sense that activities took place in a safe space, that was created and held by trusted specialist facilitators.

These successes should help lay the foundations for future work in this area. But our report also illustrates what is needed to sustain such work. It highlights a need for the artist facilitator role to receive greater recognition in social prescribing models and for further support and training for facilitators. It identifies where pathways for communication and responsibility and processes must be established for outcomes to be sustained and evaluated in the longer term.

Link to report


Art of Healing - follow on funding

November, 2022

We are delighted to have received funding from the AHRC to further develop work in Kashmir using the arts in schools, led by Michael Buser.

This follow-on funding project will extend our research and support for children and young people living in areas of protracted conflict and violence. It will enhance the value and benefits of ‘the Art of Healing’ (AHRC-funded) by:

• delivering therapeutic arts programming for children alongside existing and new partners in Kashmir;
• enhancing legacy and impact of complected research activities;
• establishing sustainable team collaboration via academic and non-academic frameworks; and
• widening geographic scope and international collaborations for future delivery.

You can learn more about this project here: About the project – The Art of Healing

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Surviving to Thriving: New Evaluation Report

3rd October 2022

We are pleased to be able to share our evaluation report of art workshops run by artist Pippa Grace with women who have experienced sexual violence. This is a project run through Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS) and funded by the Quartet Foundation and Bristol City Council. The art programmes ran from 2019 to 2022 and we conducted a mixed methods analysis, which you can read about here.

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Employability Newsletter: Art and Psychology

September, 2022

Dr Nicola Holt has written a short Newsletter, which outlines careers related to psychology that use the arts. This can involve using the arts therapeutically to improve mental health and wellbeing (for example, using the visual arts to help children communicate their feelings in art psychotherapy). It also covers how applied areas of psychology can use the arts (e.g., health psychologists can use visual methods to help patients describe pain); and finally discusses how the arts can be used as a research tool (e.g., using creative methods in qualitative research to help deepen understanding of lived experience). We hope that this Newsletter will be informative and interesting, whether you have a passion for the arts yourself, whether you are interested in working with people therapeutically, or interested in conducting psychological research in your careers (in which case an understanding of how the arts can help will be useful!).

Link to Newsletter. 

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“Close Reading, Open Minds: Literature for Health and Wellbeing”: New Report

August, 2022

In 2021, Christine Ramsey-Wade, Samuel Rogers, David Greenham, and Nicola Holt led a project called “Close Reading, Open Minds: Literature for Health and Wellbeing”. This received a cross-faculty award through UWE’s “ACE–HAS Connecting Research” scheme. The researchers organized a virtual symposium, aiming to establish a network of collaborators between arts and science disciplines. The event was designed with the following broad aims in mind:

  • Distinguishing different types of reading as a measurable factor in health and wellbeing;

  • Examining kinds of psychological attention in reading, including mindfulness and flow states;

  • Exploring literary form/technique in wellbeing contexts.

An eighteen-page report of findings and next steps is available to read here.

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New evaluation report: Art on referral in primary and secondary care

July, 2022

We are delighted to be able to share our evaluation report in collaboration with Donna Baber at Fresh Arts (Southmead hospital) and CreativeShift (Julie Matthews, Rebecca Lines and Barbara Disney), funded by the Arts Council. This reports on the impact of remote art on referral on the wellbeing of participants during the coronavirus pandemic (from June 2020 to February 2021).


4th International Social Prescribing Network Conference

March, 2022

Nicola Holt gave a paper on art on prescription, focusing on the impact of remote art on prescription, during periods of lockdowns during the pandemic, on the wellbeing and loneliness of participants. 

You can read the conference abstract here, and find recordings of talks from the conference here

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Play: Monthly research meeting

February, 2022

Rachel Davis and Anneliese Paul from DRAW gave us an inspiring update on their research project with art students and Bower Ashton campus about PLAY. They are developing a play manifesto to remind students and us all about the benefits of play, and have so far being using creative methods to learn what play means to art students. We can't wait to learn about the results!


Healing art of Kashmir: Webinar

January, 2022

This webinar explored how the arts are being used to support child wellbeing in a school in Kashmir, India. A series of short presentations narrated the processes and outcomes of ‘the Art of Healing’. Discussions were led by academics, artists, and local stakeholders who gave insights into the role of the arts and art therapy to support healing and mental wellbeing for young people living in conflict-affected areas. 

You can learn more about the webinar, and watch the recording on the project website.


Drawing in Hospitals – what is the role of mark making in contemporary healthcare?

December, 2021

Artists from UWE (Anouk Mercier, Lucy Ward and Gary Embury) and psychologist, Nicola Holt, discussed the use of drawing in healthcare and hospitals from different perspectives in an event hosted by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. You can find a recording of the webinar here, and a copy of Nicola's slides here. 


From Thriving to Surviving

November 29, 2021

The DRAW team were pleased to present a poster at the Sexual Violence & Abuse Health Research Network day with Pippa Grace, the lead artist: "Surviving to Thriving: The impact of an arts intervention on the wellbeing of women who have experienced sexual violence". You can find the abstract here


Arts & Health Journal: New issue

November 1, 2021

As the new Co-Editor-in Chief of Arts & Health, Dr Nicola Holt is excited to announce the latest issue, with articles on poetic inquiry and trans-identities, dance and mobility, singing and wellbeing, arts activities and dementia, and more!


Art, flow and wellbeing

September 08, 2021

Dr Nicola Holt was honoured to give an invited talk at the Holburne Museum, Bath, on making art and the flow state. 

You can see a copy of the slides here

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Scoping the barriers to and benefits of engagement with the visual arts for young people who identify as BAME

August 18, 2021

We are pleased to have received internal funding from the FET/HAS Connecting Research Pilot Project Scheme 2021-22 to examine perceptions of and barriers to engagement with art-on-prescription and arts/community spaces amongst young people (focusing on BAME groups as an underserved population). 

Project team:

  • Dr Nicola Holt

  • Dr Michael Buser

  • Prof. Julie Mytton

  • Dr Trang Tran

  • Dr Katie McClymont

  • Joanna Bushell

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Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference Presentations

June 21, 2021

We are proud to be able to co-present four papers on arts on prescription with our team at the 2021 Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference.

Copies of conference abstracts can be found in the links below:

Holt, N., Elliot, C., & Jenkinson, E. (2021). “Nobody can fail at it, everybody succeeds”: Perceived processes of change following attendance at an arts on prescription programme.

White, E., Holt, N., & Jenkinson, E. (2021). “It’s not therapy; I’m not a therapist”: Exploring the perspectives of Arts Health Practitioners on how arts on referral can improve psychosocial outcomes in adults with health conditions.

Zalantai, B., Holt, . . N., Chase, M., & Jenkinson, E. (2021). A mixed-methods evaluation of the longitudinal impact of arts on prescription. 

Grace, P., Holt, N., & Halliwell, E. (2021). An evaluation of the impact of an arts intervention on the wellbeing of women who have experienced sexual violence. 

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Exquisite Corpse intervention 

July 17, 2021

We are pleased to be evaluating the impact of a postal art intervention, delivered by CreativeShift, on the wellbeing of participants during the Coronavirus lockdown. 

You can see an online exhibition of the artwork produced at the Arnolfini website


Wellbeing Vox Pops

April 19, 2021

This project is a collaboration between Clare Johnson (DRAW) and Keiko Higashi (Arnolfini). The film brings together a series of UWE academics and artists to critically engage with the concept of ‘wellbeing’ in the context of the Health & Wellbeing exhibitions on show at Arnolfini from winter 2020-spring 2021: A Picture of Health and Jo Spence: from fairytales to phototherapy. The aim is to critically examine ‘wellbeing’ from a range of different disciplinary perspectives. The film was made in February-March 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the context of increasing interest in the overlap between creative arts and health and wellbeing. To access the Wellbeing Vox Pops click here

For information on the exhibition and a walkthrough of A Picture of Health | Women Photographers from The Hyman Collection click here

Image by Nick Fewings

Early Career Research Award: Poetry and Wellbeing

May 01, 2021

Dr Samuel Rogers received a Vice Chancellor’s Early Career Research Award for focusing on poetry and wellbeing. The outputs from this award are expected to be:

  1. A published literature review exploring the value of poetry from an inter-disciplinary perspective.

  2. A small empirical study, using poetry reading groups formed of UWE staff and students.

  3. A report on this study.

Good luck Samuel!

Reading a Book

Close Reading: Open Minds

March 25, 2021

Led by Christine Ramsey-Wade and Samuel Rogers, we held an online networking symposium for scholars interested in the wellbeing benefits of reading, with a keynote speech from Prof. Philip Davis.

Our starting point was gaps in existing knowledge. Literary scholars know that reading has wellbeing value, but don’t have a valid method for measuring this; health scientists know that arts-based interventions work, but are yet to align this understanding with specialist literary analysis.  

With this event, we hoped to stimulate new research by bringing together experts from literature disciplines, health sciences, and related fields such as the medical humanities. The event was designed with the following aims in mind: 

  • Distinguishing different types of reading as a measurable factor in health and wellbeing;  

  • Examining states of psychological attention in reading, including mindfulness and peak flow experience; 

  • Exploring literary form/technique in wellbeing contexts.  

Community Garden

Thriving Communities Fund

March 20, 2021

We are excited to be working with Creative Shift on a Thriving Communities Fund Project to help evaluate the wellbeing benefits of six programmes of arts and health, nature based and physical activity to help communities cope with the impact of the pandemic.

Thriving Communities Fund projects | National Academy for Social Prescribing (

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