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How the Arts Improve Health

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The launch of Arts & Health @ NYU will present research on the arts’ role as a new frontier in health, care, and wellbeing as part of a citywide Healing Arts New York event series.

In recognition of the arts’ vital role in advancing physical, mental, and social health, NYU is launching Arts & Health @ NYU, a university-wide initiative bringing together faculty and students from across NYU’s global campuses who are involved in research, practice and policy uniting the arts and wellbeing. 

The virtual launch event on September 20 will present leading examples of this interdisciplinary research as part of the citywide Healing Arts New York, a series of events featuring artists, researchers, and policy makers working at the intersection of arts, health, and care. The NYU event is co-produced by CultuRunners in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Museum of Modern Art. 

The Arts & Health initiative will allow NYU to expand its already robust research presence in this field and the university’s ongoing work with the World Health Organization (WHO). In September 2020, the WHO commissioned the International Research Alliance, led by NYU Steinhardt’s Creative Arts Therapies Consortium, to review research and generate a series of reports assessing the impact of the arts and creative arts therapies on a global scale—including visual art, drama, music, dance, poetry, and film. 

The International Research Alliance—which includes the University of Melbourne, Drexel University, Edge Hill University, Lesley University, University of Heidelberg, and University of Haifa—has thus far produced a systematic review on how creative arts interventions can reduce symptoms of depression in older adults and a scoping review on therapeutic factors in the creative arts therapies

This commission expands on the WHO’s 2019 review of the health benefits of the arts by examining the impact of creative arts therapies and arts with a stated therapeutic intent on a global scale, and acknowledges the importance of engaging with research institutions that have expertise in the health benefits of the arts to inform global health and cultural policy. 

NYU Steinhardt’s Creative Arts Therapies Consortium will also present research findings from the WHO commission during a series of events held as part of Healing Arts New York, hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the World Health Organization Arts and Health Program and co-produced by CultuRunners, NYU Steinhardt, Johns Hopkins International Arts + Mind Lab, the Aspen Institute, and the NeuroArts Blueprint, between September 19 and November 14. These events will include presentations from NYU researchers on how art therapy can affect the visuospatial regions of the brain and the psychological wellbeing of people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as how integrating virtual reality design in physical therapy can support postural control. 

“The science emerging in this area signals a paradigm shift toward valuing and expanding the arts as a global resource for care in every community,” said Nisha Sajnani, founder of Arts & Health @ NYU, Chair of the Creative Arts Therapies Consortium, associate professor, director of the drama therapy program at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and faculty member at NYU Abu Dhabi. 

NYU’s virtual launch event—part of the Healing Arts New York programming—will include an introduction to the WHO Arts and Health program by Christopher Bailey as well as presentations from NYU faculty and affiliated colleagues involved in the study and practice of how the arts contribute to our physical, cognitive, emotional, social, organizational, environmental, and public health. 

The launch of Arts & Health @ NYU will be followed by a closed, first meeting of charter Collaborating Centers of the WHO Arts & Health programs to be held at MoMA, and a series of conversations about advancing research in the arts and health in partnership with the WHO and major publishers. The first in this series will be on September 21 from 9-11am co-presented by NYU Arts & Health, the WHO Healing Arts Lab, and Frontiers. It will center research published in a special issue of Frontiers in Psychology on the physiological and psychological benefits of the arts co-edited by a global team including members of the Creative Arts Therapies Consortium.

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