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Arts Researcher

Advancing Health Equity:
The Role of Participatory Artmaking in Community Health and Wellbeing

By Sarah Elizabeth Branch



Health disparities in the United States are a direct reflection of the systemic and structural inequalities that disproportionately affect communities of color. To address individual and community health and wellbeing, artists and arts organizations are developing programming, allocating resources, and investing in community-based work. Framed within a review of literature on the determining factors of “holistic health” and health equity, this qualitative study examines artmaking as a tool for advancing health equity.


Arts and culture organizations Mural Arts Philadelphia, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, and the Writers Room utilize creative placemaking, theatre, literary and visual arts as artistic “intervention” methods to address community health and wellbeing in four distinct projects: The Black Paradise Project, I Live Here Too, Love Lot, and the Second Story Collective. Through interviews with artists, arts administrators, and community participants, this case study analysis examines each project’s process, intent, and impact.


Arts practitioners interested in community-based participatory arts must prioritize relationship-building, reflect on their “insider” / “outsider” status, and embrace adaptive or emergent creative processes. By doing so, the advancement of health equity can be further supported by the field of arts and culture, strengthened by participants and arts organizations' mutual investment in community health and wellbeing.

View on ProQuest


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Research Summary 

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