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Mental Health: Arts-based group activities


  • Mental health,
  • Social environment,
  • Community,
  • Facilities & organizations,
  • Healthcare facilities,
  • Schools,
  • Workplace,

Arts-based group activities

Research shows that arts-based activities promote social support and community engagement.1,2 They can foster self-expression1 cultural learning2,3 and exploration of community issues4.  Arts-based activities can promote leadership2 as well as improvements in mental and social health.1-4  They can also build artistic skills along with teamwork and collaboration.1-4

A local community coalition had a goal to find ways to link arts and culture to health. Local artists were engaged to create colouring books that would be available at restaurants and other businesses for community use.

Ways to get started

  • Provide arts-based activities at low or no cost. Reduce costs by recruiting volunteers5,6 and obtaining free space through community centres.
  • Create a comfortable and inclusive environment with no need for formal art education to participate.6,7
  • Recognize and respect community values and traditions in art-based activities.
  • Offer flexible scheduling as participants may have competing priorities.3,5
  • Provide support and training for those with art experience to lead activities.5,6
  • Invite individuals to share their knowledge of local history and culture to spark/inspire art-based projects.
  • Arrange a community event to display/share local art.
  • Celebrate and showcase art work created by local residents to value artists.7
  • Get creative; paint murals, make music videos and short films, build benches out of recycled material, design unique t-shirts.
  • Provide the tools and materials necessary to participate in the strategy.
  • Be culturally sensitive and flexible.

For further action to promote/improve mental health in your community, see

Multi-component community-wide interventions that increase awareness about and provide opportunities for positive mental health in your community will have greater impact than implementing one-off strategies.

Evaluation measures the impact of all the hard work that went into developing a community initiative. Evaluating impact examines:

  1. What you expect to learn or change
  2. What you measure and report
  3. How to measure impact


What you expect to learn about arts-based group activities may include:

  • Learning that the strategy was implemented as planned
  • Increased number of arts-based activities, programs, events in the community and/or specific settings and spaces (e.g., parks, workplaces, schools or daycares, libraries, local fairs, etc.)
  • Increased number of community members participating in arts-based activities
  • Increased perception of social connectedness

Arts-based group activities

  1. Averett P, Crowe A, Hall C. The youth public arts program: Interpersonal and intrapersonal outcomes for at-risk youth. J Creat Ment Health. 2015;10(3):306-323.
  2. Yeh CJ, Borrero NE, Lusheck C, et al. Fostering social support, leadership competence, community engagement, and resilience among Samoan American youth. Asian Am J Psychol. 2015;6(2):145-153.
  3. Fletcher S, Mullett J. Digital stories as a tool for health promotion and youth engagement. Can J Public Health. 2016;107(2):e183-e187.
  4. Fanian S, Young SK, Mantla M, Daniels A, Chatwood S. Evaluation of the Kts'iìhtła (“We Light the Fire”) Project: building resiliency and connections through strengths-based creative arts programming for Indigenous youth. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2015;74(1).
  5. MacLeod A, Skinner MW, Wilkinson F, Reid H. Connecting socially isolated older rural adults with older volunteers through expressive Arts. Can J Aging. 2016;35(1):14–27.
  6. Wilkinson F, MacLeod A, Skinner MW, Reid H. Visible voices: Expressive arts with isolated seniors using trained volunteers. Arts Health. 2013;5(3):230–7.
  7. Phinney A, Moody EM, Small JA. The effect of a community-engaged arts program on older adults’ well-being. Can J Aging. 2014;33(3):336–45.
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