Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Promoting social inclusion through community arts

an article by Peter Swan, (PhD Candidate at Durham University, UK) published in Mental Health and Social Inclusion Volume 17 Issue 1 (2013)


Using a case study of Artspace, a community arts and health charity, this article discusses how community-based organisations can successfully promote the social inclusion of people with mental illness and other disabilities.

A research project involved a year-long ethnographic engagement with Artspace, where the researcher participated within the organisation and worked closely with both staff and participants. It drew upon informal discussions and 43 semi-structured interviews with participants and staff.

Social inclusion was fostered through the positive and welcoming atmosphere within the building and also through the nature of the activities themselves. There was evidence that interactions between people with and without disabilities helped to challenge negative perceptions held by both groups. Artspace also offered a safe and non-judgemental environment for vulnerable participants whilst avoiding the downsides associated with services aimed solely at people with mental health difficulties or other disabilities.

Research limitations/implications
The case study approach was based on a single organisation and thus transferability of findings may be problematic.

This article has shown it is possible for a community-based organisation to meet the needs of a wide range of people whilst maintaining a safe environment for vulnerable participants. These findings may thus be of use to similar organisations seeking to diversify their user base.

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