Hearing the theme of Creativity And Wellbeing Week 2021 reminded me of the striking Banksy artwork which was first seen in Southampton last year. It shows a boy casting aside his superhero dolls for a doll dressed as a nurse: the true superheroes of the pandemic. Creativity recognizing the importance of care. So what then is the Creativity And Wellbeing Week this year, running from 17-23 May? Care: Care For Each Other, Care For The Environment and Caring Economies. Still so timely as vaccines and variants dominate the news and as we emerge from more than a year of lockdowns and adjust to the new and to the familiar.
And creativity has obviously gone on being a way to Care For Each Other (the first thread of the CWW theme) throughout the pandemic, just as it was before. Sharing songs and music, dance, arts and crafts remotely has connected many people so they have felt less alone. All the different ways we use creativity to care for each other are as diverse as the art forms themselves. By their very nature and name, the performing arts look outwards to other people, although they also impact on the performers’ own wellbeing. But all creativity can feed and become care for others. I’ve come to see arts and crafts more and more as common ground connecting people in positive ways, as well as a tool for self-expression. As we respond to others’ creativity in any art form, and as we share our own, we connect with someone else, maybe only fleetingly, maybe in a more lasting way.
Then there’s Care For The Environment. Climate emergency and biodiversity loss leave a lot of people feeling powerless, but creativity is a new focus. It becomes an opportunity to rekindle out imaginations, to think differently and to tell new stories. It can also be a tool for sharing environmental awareness with others. Organisations like the charity Julie’s Bicycle and its Season For Change creativity and climate initiative are acting on all this. Extinction Rebellion has its own art group. Nature has inspired so much creativity through the ages that it is no wonder that people respond creatively now as they see nature threatened. Creativity will not solve these issues, but it is a way to respond and to draw attention. And the more people connect with nature through creativity, the more they will care what becomes of nature.
And the third thread of Creativity And Wellbeing week’s theme is Caring Economies: an opportunity to remember all the people employed within the health, social care and not-for-profit sectors whose jobs focus on sharing arts for health and wellbeing. It’s also about the huge part played by volunteers and people who simply share creativity informally in community groups or with their neighbours. It sets me wondering how the immense scope for arts in health and wellbeing could be more fully realized through the long-delayed review of social care. It also sets me wondering what part arts in health could play in possible future economic trends, away from infinite growth and the focus on GDP, towards more sustainable, steady-state models. These models tend to reprioritise care – not only the formal care sector but also informal care roles within the home – and could open up new opportunities and freedoms.
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