Building resilience through community arts practice

  • Hart, Angie (PI)
  • Heaver, Becky (CoI)
  • Macpherson, Hannah (CoI)

Project Details


This co-productive project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), explored how community visual arts practice can help young people flourish and connect with their communities despite adverse experiences they may have faced. The research focused on socially excluded young people with disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges.

This project aimed to map and review existing research studies relating to visual arts practices and resilience, drawing on the academic literature in the fields of resilience research, disability 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.

The key objectives were to:

1) Establish the potential relationships between community visual arts practice and resilience amongst disabled young people and young people facing mental health complexities.

2) Explore and identify appropriate community visual arts practices and methods for achieving resilience in young people.

3) Make initial ‘good practice’ recommendations for arts practitioners and managers in this field and share this knowledge. This included the development of good practice ‘visual arts for resilience’ resources which have been uploaded to the Boingboing website.

Key findings

Expert advisory panel members' views informed the framework for the literature review. There was also an interim workshop with community arts practitioners and academics in order to report preliminary findings and pool existing knowledge; and case studies of visual arts interventions by community partners, focusing on disabled young people and young people with mental health challenges. The research was conducted by an international interdisciplinary team of academics with expertise in the fields of disability arts, social exclusion, community health and resilience. These academics worked alongside resilience-focused and community arts organisations in the South East of England and community arts practitioners interested in enhancing the effectiveness of their arts practice.

A time-limited, collaborative arts intervention was designed, delivered and evaluated by the project team.

The project included young people and other community partners at all stages of its design. Indeed, they initiated the idea for the project and contributed to writing the actual bid, particularly the collaborative arts activities descriptions. Young people and other community partners were also fully involved in its delivery, building on previous collaborative research conducted and showcased on the Boingboing community website.

Impacts of the project included:

> 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
enhancing the effectiveness of future community arts for resilience interventions
> through the development of best practice 'visual arts for resilience' resources including a film and a toolkit coproduced by visual arts practitioners and young people.


Winter, S., Buttery, L., Gahan, L., Taylor, S., Gagnon, E., Hart, A., & Macpherson, H. (2012) Visual arts practice for resilience: a guide for working with young people with complex needs. Brighton: Boingboing.

Hart, A., Macpherson, H., Heaver, B., Gagnon, E. (2015) Using Visual Arts Based Approaches to Develop Young People’s Resilience in Kourkoutas, E., Hart, A. (Ed.) Innovative Practice and Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Psychosocial Difficulties and Disabilities (pp. 415-430). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Hart, A., Macpherson, H., Panton, C., Heaver, B., Gagnon, E. (2015) ‘Building resilience through group visual arts activities.’ Engage Journal – The International Journal of Visual Art and Gallery Education, Engage 36: Resilience, 87-95.

Macpherson, H., Hart, A., & Heaver, B. (2015) ‘Building resilience through group visual arts activities’: findings from a scoping study with young people who experience mental health complexities and/or learning difficulties.’ Journal of Social Work, 0 (0) 1-20.

Macpherson, H. M., Hart, A., & Heaver, B. (2014) ‘Impacts between academic researchers and community partners: some critical reflections on impact agendas in a ‘visual arts for resilience’ research project.’ ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 13 (1) 27-32.

Hart, A. (producer), Griffiths, C. (director) Mena-Cormenzana, J. (director) (2015) Boingboing Community University Partnership Hits The Road [Motion picture]. UK: rough sea films.

Macpherson, H. (producer), Hart, A. (producer), Winter, S. (producer), Heaver, B. (producer), & Griffiths, C. (director) (2012) Make Your Mark: building resilience through community arts practice [Motion picture]. UK: rough sea films.
Effective start/end date1/01/1231/12/12


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