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Creative programs in community settings in Victoria: How providing opportunities to engage in the art-making process improves self-esteem, builds social support networks and encourages communication

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posted on 2022-01-05, 00:18 authored by Susan DragonSusan Dragon
BACKGROUND: Almost anyone working in arts-based interventions has an intuitive understanding of the health and social benefits associated with this work, attributing outcomes to the role of the facilitator, the creative space, the social element, and the art-making process. Local creative programs exist in abundance in health organisations, community centres, neighbourhood houses, schools and learning centres in Victoria, providing opportunities for participation in creative activity. However, we have lost the historical belief of art as a healing tool and in the value of engaging local communities in creative activity if we do not give voice to the participants of these less publicised, smaller, local art programs and explore their experiences of engaging in the art-making process (Dragon & Madsen 2015). AIM: The aim of the research was to investigate if the process of engaging in creative activity in art programs delivered in the community could achieve the outcomes of improved self-esteem, increased social support and enhance communication. RESEARCH METHOD: A mixed method sequential design of four phases was conducted to evaluate the outcomes of 20 art programs delivered in 13 community centres in Victoria. Quantitative methods included standardised assessment scales, namely the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale and the Social Functioning scale. Qualitative methods used were interviews with program facilitators and interviews with 13 participants. RESULTS: Statistically there was a significant increase in self-esteem but not in social interaction as a whole. However, qualitative results highlighted the participants’ positive experiences of building social support networks as well as building self-esteem. CONCLUSION: While contributing factors are attributed to positive outcomes in art-based interventions in the literature, this research found that these factors were embedded within the art-making process which is central to the engagement in creative activity. The art-making process exists in every arts-based intervention as well as in the art programs of the current study, in spite of the lack of resources, the difference in programs and limited conventional methods. This research supports those advocating for the use of arts in promoting health to seize every opportunity to provide engagement in the art-making process because of potential benefits.



Central Queensland University


Central Queensland University

Additional Rights

I hereby grant to Central Queensland University or its agents the right to archive and to make available my thesis or dissertation in whole or in part through Central Queensland University’s Institutional Repository, ACQUIRE, in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all copyright, including the right to use future works (such as articles or books), all or part of this thesis or dissertation.

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No


Dr Wendy Madsen ; Dr Tris Kerslake

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • By publication