Center for Arts in Medicine

Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America

Create safe, inclusive, and engaging environments

Arts and Culture Can Help Create Safe, Inclusive, and Engaging Environments 

Because the arts employ personal and cultural expression and representation, their incorporation into non-arts spaces, like health and social services facilities, can help reflect and elevate local and cultural values and narratives, which in turn can increase comfort and inclusivity. Arts programs also generate new spaces for inclusive gatherings. 

For example: 

  • The Culture of Recovery in eastern Kentucky is a partnership between arts, substance abuse and recovery programs that taps into the unique music and craftsmanship heritage of Appalachia to support recovery among young adults dealing with opioid and other substance addictions. By moving support services into and arts format and setting, the program has resulted in significantly increased successful graduation from drug court in the region (from 86% to 94%). 
  • The Clemmons Family Farm, in Charlotte, Vermont, is one of the few African-American owned farms in the U.S. The farm offers arts classes, cooking lessons, exhibits, tours, and educational talks that focus on the arts and culture of people of African descent. It addresses public health concerns, including racism and social isolation, by curating environments in which diverse identities gather to dialogue and learn.  

Outcomes associated with creating safe, inclusive, and engaging environments:

Increased mobility & exercise 

Huang, T. T., Wyka, K. E., Ferris, E. B., Gardner, J., Evenson, K. R., Tripathi, D., Soto, G. M., Cato, M. S., Moon, J., Wagner, J., Dorn, J. M., Catellier, D. J., & Thorpe, L. E. (2016). The physical activity and redesigned community spaces (PARCS) study: Protocol of a natural experiment to investigate the impact of citywide park redesign and renovation. BMC public health, 16(1), 1160.

Ball, K., Bauman, A., Leslie, E., & Owen, N. (2001). Perceived environmental aesthetics and convenience and company are associated with walking for exercise among Australian adults. Preventive Medicine, 33(5), 434-440.

Sallis, J. F., Floyd, M. F., Rodríguez, D. A., & Saelens, B. E. (2012). Role of built environments in physical activity, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 125(5), 729-737.

Spaces for learning, connection and play 

Marchand, G. C., Nardi, N. M., Reynolds, D., & Pamoukov, S. (2014). The impact of the classroom built environment on student perceptions and learning. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 187-197.

Minero, E. (2018, March 2). The Architecture of Ideal Learning Environments. Edutopia.

Oliver, L., Schuurman, N., Hall, A., & Hayes, M. (2011). Assessing the influence of the built environment on physical activity for utility and recreation in suburban Metro Vancouver. BMC Public Health BioMed Central.

Growing & aging in place 

Garin, N., Olaya, B., Miret, M., Ayuso-Mateos, J. L., Power, M., Bucciarelli, P., & Haro, J. M. (2014). Built environment and elderly population health: A comprehensive literature review. Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, 10(1), 103-115.

Rosso, A. L., Auchinloss, A. H., & Michael, Y. L. (2011). The urban built environment and mobility in older adults: A comprehensive review. Journal of Aging Research.

Kerr, J., Rosenberg, D., & Frank, L. (2012). The role of the built environment in healthy aging: Community design, physical activity, and health among older adults. Journal of Planning Literature, 27(1), 43-60.

Welcoming social spaces 

Nielsen, S. L., Fich, L. B., Roessler, K. K., & Mullins, M. F. (2017). How do patients actually experience and use art in hospitals? The significance of interaction: a user-oriented experimental case study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being12(1).

Robbins, J., Linds, W., Ironstand, B., & Goodpipe, E. (2017). Generating and sustaining positive spaces: reflections on an Indigenous youth urban arts program. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 13(3), 161-169. 

Latimer, M., Sylliboy, J. R., MacLeod, E., Rudderham, S., Francis, J., Hutt-MacLeod, D., Harman, K., & Finley, G. A. (2018). Creating a safe space for First Nations youth to share their pain. Pain Reports, 3(682), 1-12. 

Cultural and historical representation 

Zitcer, A., & Almanzar, S. M. (2019). Public art, cultural representation, and the just city. Journal of Urban Affairs, 1-16.

Rubesin, H. (2016). The stories we share: reflections on a community-based art exhibit displaying work by refugees and immigrants. Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 7(2), 159-174.  

Golden, T. & Hand, J. (2018). Arts, culture and community mental health. Community Development Investment Review, 13(1). Retrieved August 6, 2020, from

Build civic pride and engagement 

Duncombe, S., Perlov, G., Lamber, S., & Halford, S. J. (2017). Assessing the impact of artistic activism. The Center for Artistic Activism.

Huss, E., Kaufman, R., Avgar, A., & Shuker, E. (2015). Arts as a vehicle for community building and post‐disaster development. Disasters, 40(2), 284-303.

Goldbard, A. (2018). Art & Wellbeing: Toward a Culture of Health. U.S. Department of Arts & Culture.

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Cris Sanhueza and the UF Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab for their support in curating the articles within this online tool.

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