University of Limerick
ni Bhriain et al 2021 The Artist and Academia.pdf (493.76 kB)

Collaborative knowledge sharing for mind and body: celebrating the role of arts in health

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Introduction Arts and health is a collaboration of arts and health perspectives and exper tise (The Arts Council, 2015). The aim of those involved in arts and health is to create a united platform for maintaining and/or improving public health, while appreciating the priorities and practices of respective disci plines. Arts and health is a broad and diverse field that can take place in a range of healthcare, workplace, and community settings, with clinical and non-clinical populations. The diversity of projects within the scope of arts and health is potentially infinite and represents a stage for creative and ana lytical inquiry. University-led research conducted by artists and academics is a key driving force in the growing recognition of the important role of the arts in health and wellbeing. Each of the three case studies discussed in this essay was led by an artist-scholar i.e. a traditional Irish dancer, a contempo rary dancer, and a musician, respectively. The utilization of arts for the promotion of health and well-being has been central throughout the history of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. This role has been woven from various threads across multi ple disciplines, all of which have a shared interest in the care and welfare of people and the communities in which they live. Like the growth of arts and health practices internationally, the emergence of this field within the Academy has been dynamic and multifaceted. Over the past twenty five years, numerous programmes and individuals have contributed to this area, which today is a central pillar upon which the Academy is established. The historical development of arts and health practices at the Academy is one that is complex. As a field that was most immediately associated with the disciplines of music therapy and community music, it has since blos somed in Irish traditional music and dance, contemporary dance, chant and ritual song, festive arts, arts practice, ethnochoreology, and ethnomusicol ogy. Indeed, any attempt to narrate such history across the past twenty five years would risk a failure to acknowledge the numerous individuals who have given so generously of their time and talents in highlighting the role of arts to promote health and well-being in society. In this essay, the authors reflect upon the role of arts and health at an important moment in time within the Academy when the need for interdisciplinary discussion about this area emerged. Although, up until this point in time, arts and health energies were individually thriving within the disciplinary confines of a number of Academy programmes, collective discussion was limited. With a view to somewhat streamlining these various arts and health energies, in April 2015 faculty from music therapy, Irish traditional dance, and contem porary dance, organised a Tower Series Seminar1 to consider the potential and possibilities for arts in health. The following three case studies pre sented at this seminar, and described below, represent a crucial point in the Academy’s history, when three disciplines collectively reflected upon and celebrated their contributions to arts and health in Ireland. Each of these case studies were collectively written to offer a flavour of the diverse range of arts and health methodologies utilised in the Academy. They also highlight various reflections on artistic practice and the value that is placed upon them among the individuals and groups with whom we work. The first case study is focused on set dancing and is an example of col laboration between arts practitioners, academics, health care profession als, and the community. The second relates to integrated dance, an artistic practice that aims to promote health and is clearly lead by the service user. Finally, the third music therapy case is an example of a practice that is both clinical and artistic while also highlighting how artistic practices can be used to engage service user voices in research.



The Artist and Academia, Phelan, Helen & Walsh, Graham F.;Essay 6


Taylor and Francis Group


peer-reviewed The full text of this article will not be available in ULIR until the embargo expires on the 30/09/2022


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the Artist and Academia 2021 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:



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  • Allied Health
  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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