Yafonne Chen (L) studies traditional Chinese wushu (sword dance) with Master Ling Mei Zhang (R). Photo by Sherwood Chen.

Weaving Traditional Arts Into the Fabric of Community Health

This briefing studies the potential to promote health through engagement in community-centered traditional arts, and presents an overview of the burgeoning field of arts-for-health as evidenced by evaluations of two of ACTA’s signature programs: the Living Cultures Grants Program and the Apprenticeship Program.

This briefing is of particular interest to funders and organizations with a mission to support programming in the fields of the arts, health, and community development, as well as to artists and researchers in the fields of community medicine and public health and policy, the folk & traditional arts, and community-based arts and culture.

Aware of mounting evidence that community-based arts may positively impact health and wellbeing, ACTA commissioned studies by UC Davis’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities and the Asian American Center on Disparities Research to formally investigate health effects and other outcomes experienced by participants in two representative programs: ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program, which funds nonprofit organizations to support exemplary projects in traditional arts in California, and the Apprenticeship Program, which encourages the continuation of the state’s traditional arts and cultures by contracting master artists to offer intensive, one-on-one training to qualified apprentices.Weaving Traditional Arts into the Fabric of Community Health presents the UC Davis findings with an overview of selected research in the emerging field of arts-for-health, as well as scholarly references and a selection of global resources in the fields of traditional and folk arts and arts-for-health. A careful reading provides provocative and hypothesis-generating insight into associations between participation in, and performance of traditional arts, and the potential to promote individual and public health.

Photo of weavers.
Participants in Movimiento Cultural de la Union Indigena’s Triqui Dreaming weaving project, funded by the Living Cultures Grant, 2011. Photo by Lily Kharrazi/ACTA.

With its deep connections to community-centered traditional arts, its sensitivity to the artistic process, yet its appreciation for rigorous scientific inquiry, ACTA is uniquely poised to partner with multidisciplinary health and social science researchers to create, facilitate, and evaluate novel health interventions utilizing traditional arts. ACTA’s relationships also situate it as a logical partner for implementation of arts-in-health programs, particularly those aimed at well-being of the aging population, preventive health interventions for youth and young adults, and well-being of new immigrant populations.

The research and preparation of Weaving Traditional Arts into the Fabric of Community Health were funded by generous support from The California Endowment and the UC Davis Health System, Center for Reducing Health Disparities.

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