Tasha Golden headshot photo credit: Michael Wilson, Girls in detention center photo credit: Tasha Golden
Dr. Tasha Golden joined us at our third national convening of the Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America. The event was held in Athens, GA and was in partnership with ArtPlace America, the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities, and the University of Georgia. Dr. Golden is a singer/songwriter, poet and arts and public health researcher. She spoke with UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s Operations Manager Kimberlee Campbell-Smith about the provocation she offered the group during Day 1 of the convening.
Q. What was the issue at the heart of your provocation?
A. I was feeling a sense that art and culture have the ability to do things at this large level. What I was thinking about in Athens, Georgia, is how public health is really trying to move into that social ecological space and they've done a lot of work. What the field is not terribly good at yet is knowing what to do with what they're exploring, so we can talk a lot about health disparities that result from policies and from lack of affordable housing. We are looking at these determinants of individual people’s health, but then what do we do with those public health practitioners? We're not necessarily doing a lot of training or a lot of programming around how do you deliver a more affordable health system. And I see art and culture as being a really important part of shifting things like social norms. What does health mean for one person versus another person? How does art recognize its ability to ask questions that public health needs to ask but doesn't know how to ask and then offer that to the field instead of trying to ask and answer the same questions?
Q. What took you to the next level?
A. I don't know if I have advice that would work across the board because every artist has such different motivations. When I was still touring full-time, I was working through my own struggles with mental health and depression, and learning a lot about issues such as stigma and shame. I was looking at research regarding shame and the differences between guilt and shame, and differences between self-esteem and self-compassion. Learning about these things made me see my audiences and their responses in a slightly different way.
I think that sometimes artists get worried about their health or science because they don't want their work to be reduced by it, they see that language as being reductive and I've never shared that fear. I think that I've always seen it as being enlarging. When people use words that are “health-ish” to describe my art or any art, they just added words. They haven't taken away any of the words I ever used to describe it for myself.
Q. Why is this important at this time?
A. I resonate with it because of the focus on inequities and the power of systems and social determinants of health. It deviates to the extent that we want to mitigate or eliminate health inequities. If we recognize that diverse individuals experience disparate health outcomes then we can create new opportunities for well-being and thriving. We should also be able to recognize that diverse people have different forms of knowledge that are all of value.
Q. If you were to offer a call to action, what would it be and to whom?
A. I think my call to action for artists would be to ask the same kinds of questions of equity and disparities that public health is asking: Who has access? Whose art has value? What do we disparage? What do we minimize? What does health mean?
Then they need to make sure that we are being equitable and that those included in the different conversations around art, especially public art and public programs, and ideas of what art does for people. Who has been invited to have those conversations and to share their experiences? How are we valuing or devaluing certain forms of art?