Community arts matter to our personal and collective wellness. A creative community is happier, healthier, and more productive. Everyone at every age benefits when their local culture nurtures opportunities for creative engagement and learning. Cultivation of group expression is good for the individual and, like all aspects of a healthy community, what’s good for the individual is good for the whole.
The expressive arts connect people in a communal place and shared experience. Natural locations, cultural institutions, public spaces, festivals, fairs, and familiar surroundings can be local venues for art-making, art-taking, and art-giving. We can make art with community at classes or workshops, and in organized groups that focus on shared interests. We can take art with community at events or performances that feature visual art, theatre, music, or narrative mediums. We can give art with community through supporting local arts, joining a collaborative, and by volunteering for creative causes to help others. These activities build social capital and a commonwealth of interests within a population.
Community arts address an important public health need because the experience reduces stress. High levels of daily stress and anxiety are the biggest threat to our health and well-being. Minimizing stress maximizes the immune system and prevents illness. Creativity is a way to find a happy, healthy balance in our busy lives.
In my work teaching therapeutic arts, I’ve seen the value of creative group experience. Sharing the arts with friends and peers helps us better understand ourselves and other cultures, and brings meaning to the things and traditions we care about. Social connectedness provides a common ground for belonging and inclusiveness and positively impacts our mental health and longevity. Me to we, others to us; when we are able to feel that we are part of something larger than ourselves, we can be connected to the whole. Art celebrates life and communicates our collective expressions as we dance with the flash mob, tailgate grill at the big game, visit a local museum, and volunteer to make the world a better place. We are citizen artists. Community is creative. Now more than ever, community arts matter and are a way to wellness because they are how we can grow and flourish together.