Art and Community Capacity-Building: A Case Study

Art and Community Capacity-Building: A Case Study

Ferdinand Lewis (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) and Eleanor K. Sommer (University of Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1727-6.ch023
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Arts programs are increasingly becoming part of public engagement in the context of community health but have mostly been studied in urban and suburban locations. This chapter outlines a successful partnership between an arts in healthcare program and a community health coalition in rural Franklin County, Florida, an area struck by natural and human-made disasters. During a five-year period, the organizations worked in partnership to address the “fragmentation” of the community and its health services and to build community and organizational capacity for public health planning using the arts. The partnership sustained engagement with a variety of communities and institutions in Franklin County, Florida, conducted community assessments, developed public murals and mosaics, created community gardens, gathered stories, and employed Boalian theater strategies. The case study examines the partnership through the lens of a Community Coalition Action Theory framework, offering a narrative of a unique partnership.
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The Arts and Rural Health

The relationship of the arts to community health has been studied for decades and is a subject of increasing interest to researchers (Hamilton, Hinks, & Petticrew, 2003, pp. 401-402; Stuckey & Nobel, 2010). Research on the arts in public health in the United States tends toward an urban or suburban bias, and systematic investigation of the arts in rural health is limited. Yet rural places in the US face complex and persistent poverty, as well as rates of disease, disability, and mortality higher than urban places (Jones, 2009; Jones, Parker, & Ahearn, 2009). Rural health remains a concern despite changes in access to health insurance and improvements in some areas (MacKinney, Mueller, & McBride, 2011; Committee on the Future of Rural Health, 2005). In summarizing the situation of rural healthcare delivery in the US, the 2014 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report pointed out that although access and quality of healthcare has improved in rural areas, few disparities were eliminated since 2001, and many challenges remain (p.2). Rural health programs tend to be funded less than urban ones and lack the political influence and adequate health education found in urban places (Barnidge et al., 2013, pp. 100-101). A richer understanding of how collaborative community arts programs contribute to the health and well-being of rural communities in the US could inform the funding, planning, and practice of community-engaged arts in rural health.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Arts in Healthcare: A healthcare-related profession operating in clinical and community settings, adjunct to professional health practice. In the clinical setting, arts in healthcare programs are concerned with humanizing the healthcare experience by facilitating artmaking among patients, families, and medical staff, and by advocating for effective design in healthcare environments. In the community, arts in healthcare programs contribute to a community’s capacity for disease prevention and health promotion. In the case studied here, the profession contributed to the community’s institutional healthcare capacity.

Community Coalitions: Partnerships of local stakeholders who share resources and plans toward a common, and usually healthcare-related, goal. In conceptual terms, a community coalition is the point at which the diverse missions of a group of partners overlap to focus on a common goal.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD): A theoretical framework for community development practice introduced by McKnight and Kretzmann in the 1990s. ABCD emphasizes the idea that empowered communities should lead their own development rather than relying on leadership by outside agencies.

Boalean Theater: An intervention- and social justice-focused theater method, developed by theater artist, author, and legislator Augusto Boal. The method was adapted by Boal from the work of education theorist Paolo Freire, who used the student’s lifeworld as the text for study, with empowerment as the goal of education.

Fragmentation: In the public health field, a condition of practical dissociation between agencies, services, and organizations that decreases the ability to collaborate and share resources. In the rural public health literature, the term refers to that condition in rural places where services are dissociated by a lack of proximity, transportation, and/or political resources.

Community Capacity: A community’s ability to collaboratively produce change toward solving a common issue of concern.

Community Coalition Action Theory (CCAT): A framework for evaluating health-related community coalitions, first published in 2002 by public health researchers Frances Butterfoss & Michelle Kegler.

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