Building resilience through community arts practice: A scoping study with disabled young people and young people facing mental health challenges

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: Sch of Environment and Technology


This research project explores how community visual arts practice can help young people flourish and connect with their communities despite adverse experiences they may have faced. The research focuses on socially excluded young people with disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges. It has included young people and other community partners in all stages of its design and they have contributed to writing the bid, particularly the collaborative arts activities statement. Young people and other community partners will also be fully involved in its delivery, building on previous collaborative research conducted and showcased on the community website The main body of this project involves a review of existing research data relating to these issues, drawing on the academic literature in the fields of resilience research, disablity studies, arts for health practice and geographies of health and impairment, and on what is known as 'grey literature' housed on community and policy websites.

Expert advisory panel members' views will inform the framework for the literature review. There will also be an interim workshop with community arts practitioners and academics in order to report preliminary findings and pool existing knowledge; and case studies of planned visual arts interventions by community partners, focusing on disabled young people and young people with mental health challenges. The research will be conducted by an international interdisciplinary team of academics with expertise in the fields of disability arts, social exclusion, community health and resilience. These academics will work alongside resilience-focused and community arts organizations in the South East of England and community arts practitioners interested in enhancing the effectiveness of their arts practice. Impacts of the project will include: improving community arts practitioner and academic understandings of the links between arts practice, resilience and resilient communities; improving the lives of young people with mental health complexities and young people with moderate learning disabilities through the provision of community visual arts workshops targeted at fostering resilience; raising awareness of the creativity and talent of young disabled people (including their own interpretations of resilience) through a public exhibition of their art work and enhancing the effectiveness of future community arts for resilience interventions through the development of best practice 'visual arts for resilience' resources including a film.

Planned Impact

This project brings multiple impacts which extend well beyound a narrowly concieved academic community. Project beneficiaries include, young (dis)abled people and their communities through participation in arts projects designed to foster thier resilience; arts practioners and managers who will be participating in an interim workshop designed to share resilience expertise; arts policy makers concerned with best practice in this field and the general public through an exhibition which aims to raise awareness of the creativity and talent of young, socially excluded (dis)abled people and their interpretations of resilience. Furthermore, given the community-university partnership expertise of the co-investigator this project will itself also be contributing to the emerging impact agenda, and specifically beginning to articulate how this agenda might be shaped by the Connected Communities Programme.

Specific details of impacts are outlined in detail in our Pathways to Impact attachment. However, in short, stated impacts will be achieved through links with collaborative partners who will be delivering arts based resilience interventions; an interim workshop with leading international academics in the field and relevant arts practitioners and organizations in the South East of England interested in establishing links between arts and resilience; representatives of Arts Council England who have volunteered to be on our Expert Advisory Panel and who are responsible for enhancing diversity in the arts; best practice web resources for arts practitioners interested in enhancing the effectiveness of their community arts work with young people (lodged on a dedicated resilience website which receves over 15,000 hits per annum) and an end of project exhibition in the University of Brighton's public gallery space at its Grand Parade site in central Brighton.
Title Make Your Mark Summer Exhibition 
Description The Make Your Mark collaborative arts workshops culminated in a summer exhibition. Everybody was invited to join in celebrating the art work of the young people experiencing mental health complexities and /or learning difficulties who participated in the workshops. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact One of our participants went on to study an MA in Inclusive Arts practice. Another has been involved in further resilience research. Parents and Carers spoke to us about the benefit of the arts workshops for the young people involved. The exhibition was at the Pheonix in Brighton - a high profile venue where visitors could come and learn about the connections between art and resilience and admire young people's work. 
Description This scoping study has involved the delivery of weekly resilience-building arts workshops for young people and a review of associated 'arts for resilience' literature. We found a significant existing evidence base which links visual arts practice to individual and community resilience (over 190 related references). This is dispersed across a number of disciplinary fields including art therapy, social work, community health, cultural policy and geographies of health. Key recent publications in the 'arts for health' and 'arts for community well-being' research literature have also been linked to this review of 'arts for resilience'. The researchers contributed to the evidence base through developing a program of arts workshops and evaluating these in terms of their resilience benefits. They found that even short-term visual arts interventions can have a significant impact on young people's resilience. Further research is required to explore in more depth: what constitutes resilience amongst people with learning difficulties and how this links with prior research definitions of resilience; the longer-term resilience benefits of arts participation; the most cost-effective modes of delivering arts for resilience amongst young people with complex needs; the appropriateness of existing scales and measures of resilience for evaluating the impact of arts interventions with young people with complex needs.
Exploitation Route We produced an 'art for resilience' activity guide available on the web as a download at We also produced two peer review journal articles reflecting on the practice of the research and illustrating the findings of the research and how to build on these findings. ( This included reccomending longitudinal studies that follow individuals over much larger timescales)
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

Description We produced a practitioners article for the journal of Social Work and an accompanying activity guide that gives carers, social workers and parents a guidebook for how to use art activities to build resilience in young disadvantaged people. This was distributed to local organizations and is available as a download on the resilience research website ''.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Practitioner Workshop for Visual Arts for Resilience Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Resilience and arts with young people was the focus of our free one-day workshop for community arts commissioners, managers and practitioners in the South East, and academics interested in learning about resilience, and sharing their existing knowledge of the links between visual arts for disadvantaged young people, resilience and resilient communities. We were keen to hear what sorts of resilience building practices practitioners were using in their own arts workshops and events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Visual arts for resilience: A project bringing together young people with mental health issues and young people with learning difficulties 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The project included 10 weekly resilience-building arts workshops and an end of project exhibition showcasing the art work of the young people experiencing mental health complexities and /or learning difficulties who participated in the workshops. A research poster was created summarising the project and its findings and displayed in the Sallis Benney Art Gallery for two weeks as part of a University of Brighton organised Research Poster Competition.

The poster won second prize in the Research Poster competition (staff category).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013