Art-based research milestone

In a national first, stakeholders from Australia and around the world will converge on Bendigo for a conference exploring arts based research methods. 

Bendigo's La Trobe University Visual Arts CentreThe two day Evidence in a Different Form conference will take place in Bendigo from Friday, 1 November. Conference co-convenors and La Trobe University researchers Dr Patricia Fenner, Dr Jean Rumbold and Dr Bruce Rumbold have organised the first event of its type in Australia.

‘It will bring together artists, government policy makers and senior managers from the community and clinical sectors as well as Australian and international researchers to identify and explore new ideas for evaluating arts-based research findings,’ said Dr Fenner.

Dr Fenner said that traditionally health and government service providers relied heavily on statistical assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of community health programs.

However, arts-based community programs and therapies often proved difficult to evaluate using traditional statistical measurements alone.

‘Often the positive outcomes of these types of programs are based on a range of factors that are harder to measure using only statistical models. For example program objectives might be based on a participant’s sense of wellbeing or perceived connection with the community which may be better understood utilising a range of modes of data collection.

‘As a result art-based initiatives have been only partially appreciated for the value they add to the health and wellbeing of individuals, groups and the overall community.  This can be a reason why many meaningful and effective programs are poorly funded.’

Fifty-eight participants have been invited to discuss the issue at the conference.

‘They represent a broad cross section of the creative arts and arts therapy community, and will provide a wide range of opinions on the lasting impact of arts-based initiatives upon the resilience, capacity, sustainability and creativity of individuals, groups  and communities.’

Conference discussions, presentations and case studies will form the basis of a number of research papers to be published by the La Trobe University School of Public Health in 2014.

Dr Fenner said that research emanating from the conference would align with La Trobe University’s newly established research focus area Building Healthy Communities. It would also underscore La Trobe University’s commitments to Bendigo under the University’s Future Ready Strategic Plan.

‘Bendigo is a city profoundly focused on the arts and encouraging an artistic culture. It’s also the location of the newly established La Trobe Arts Institute and the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre. So it’s symbolic of La Trobe’s commitment to Bendigo that an international conference of this nature is held in the city.’

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