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Strong and reliable research is a vital component of advocating effectively and making informed programming and policy decisions. In pursuit of new forms of art, ways of artistic expression and methods to tackle gaps within the arts and health field, research played an important role in guiding evidence-based practice and knowledge.

Art, meditation and cognitive science: a framework for museum-based community meditation programme during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore (Chan, Chen & Chia, 2023)

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused mandatory lockdowns worldwide, exacerbating mental health issues created by social isolation. Aimed to improve mental health and maintain engagement, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) rapidly deployed an online programme called Unwind with SAM to engage the public with the museum's contemporary art collection coupled with meditation. The programme focused on the positive effect of arts on mental health, combined with the cognitive benefits of meditation by ‘slow-looking’ at artworks. This practice-based report reflects on the processes and explores the potential between art, contemplation and cognitive sciences. The first section outlines the current landscape of art and wellness approaches in museums. The second section explains the philosophical framework that guides the programme, alongside a breakdown of components and design rationale. The final part provides a critical reflection and concludes with recommendations for practitioners, managers and scientists to utilise the framework for designing future programmes.

Navigating identities within arts in health in Singapore: Reflections and recommendations for collaborative art and art therapy practices (Koh & Lee, 2023)

The chapter "Navigating Identities within Arts in Health in Singapore" (Koh & Lee, 2023) discusses the authors' participation in an inaugural arts residency program in Singapore's community care sector between October 2017 and January 2018, with support from the Agency for Integrated Care and the National Arts Council of Singapore. The authors highlight their identities as artists-art therapists in developing the arts activities, and reflect on the different skill sets applied to designing their arts programme for nursing homes. Potential future collaborative practices in healthcare and/or community care settings are examined; recommendations for nurturing therapeutic spaces to consider socio-cultural, environmental, political, economic and other external factors are explored as well.

Why art? The role of arts in arts and health (Vickhoff,2023)

This article is an answer to a report called “What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?” The authors conclude that the arts have an impact on mental and physical health. Yet, the question of the role of the arts remains unanswered. What is and what is not an art effect? Recently, embodied theory has inspired articles on the perception of art. These articles have not yet received attention in the field of Arts and Health. Scholars in psychosomatic medicine have argued for an approach based on recent work in enactive embodied theory to investigate the connection between the body and the mind. The present article examines how key concepts in this theory relate to art. This leads to a discussion of art in terms of empathy—the relation between the internal state of the artist and the internal state of the beholder. In this article, Vickhoff exemplifies with a conceptual framework of musical empathy. Implications for health are addressed.

Connecting the Dots: The State of Arts and Health in Singapore (Tan et al., 2021)

This article examines the state of the field of arts and health in Singapore and identifies the drivers that have shaped its development to date, adding new insights from Asia to the growing international literature in this area. We find that the field in Singapore is rapidly growing, with a proliferation of activities across the arts and culture, healthcare, and social care sectors in recent decades fostered by various policy developments, increased funding and new peer-to-peer networking. Nevertheless, several issues persist, including inconsistent understanding and conceptualisation of the field as a whole across multiple stakeholders, limited research capacity and training platforms, and lack of professional recognition. We provide recommendations for further action, including developing arts and health literacy and research capacity, investing in efforts to bridge education and practice, and focusing on formalising and elevating professional standards.

Curating wellness during a pandemic in Singapore: COVID-19, museums, and digital imagination (Tan & Tan, 2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unexpected disruption to the operation of many museums. However, the disruption also presents an opportunity for local museums to explore new modes of audience engagement that could also help to mitigate the negative health impact of COVID-19 through the imaginative use of technology. This article provides a snapshot of the various digital initiatives that were developed by museums in Singapore during the most challenging time of COVID-19 to exemplify the expanded role of museums as a public health resource. It will also offer a brief reflection on the challenges and benefits of curating wellbeing with digital technologies.

回艺 (huí yì): Exploring art-based life review to support the relocation process for older adults with dementia in nursing homes (Tan & Tan, 2020)

This study developed an art-based life review programme (Project 回艺; huí yì) and examined its capability to support the  relocation process of older adults  into nursing homes. The programme took place over six weeks with twelve older adults in two nursing homes. Each session comprised art-making and storytelling activities to create content that contributed to an individualized life review artbook. It also provides guidance for future art-based life review projects through a proposed practice framework.

Arts for ageing well: a propensity score matching analysis of the effects of arts engagements on holistic well-being among older Asian adults above 50 years of age (Ho et al., 2019)

This study assessed the frequency and intensity of arts engagement inclusive of active and passive engagements in arts, culture and heritage activities among Singaporean adults aged 50 and above, and examined the relationships between participatory art and holistic well-being. It provided robust evidence to support a significant causal relationship between arts engagements and holistic well-being. Recommendations for art-based public health and elderly care research, practice and policy were discussed.

A Novel Mindful-Compassion Art Therapy For Reducing Burnout and Promoting Resilience for End-of-Life Care Professionals (Ho et al., 2019)

The research study utilised a randomised waitlist controlled design to evaluate the efficacy of a novel mindful-compassion art therapy (MCAT) for end-of-life care professionals (i.e., doctors, nurses, social workers and allied health professionals) in reducing burnout and promoting resilience. MCAT intervention sessions are led by a credentialed art therapist and an experienced mindfulness practitioner at HCA Hospice Care and participants were engaged through 6 weeks of 3-hour intervention and 4 weeks of post-intervention. The findings from the research will help to inform the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of a hybrid intervention that seeks to address different domains of health (i.e., psycho-socio-spiritual). 

Connecting reminiscence, art-making and cultural heritage: A pilot art-for-dementia care programme (Tan, 2018)

This study examined the effects of Let’s Have Tea at the Museum, a participatory visual art programme on clients at an Alzheimer’s Disease Association (ADA) Singapore daycare centre. The programme, which combines reminiscence with art-making, aims at enabling participants to further explore the heritage collection at the Peranakan Museum to reawaken memories and promote personal expression. The three themes identified in this study that support the benefits of the programme include the following: (1) fostering space for self-discovery, growth and socializing; (2) art as a resource for multi-sensorial engagement and stimulation; and (3) encouraging play and boosting morale. Further use and development of the programme are recommended as a strategy to care for and enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Art Therapy is Associated with Sustained Improvement in Cognitive Function in the Elderly with Mild Neurocognitive Disorder: Findings from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial for Art Therapy and Music Reminiscence Activity Versus Usual Care (Mahendran et al., 2018) 

This study builds on the findings by Rawtaer et al. (2015) on psychosocial interventions to improve subsyndromal anxiety and depression amongst elderly living in the community. Incorporating clinical outcome indicators (i.e., functional imaging, blood biomarker), the research utilizes a randomised-controlled design to examine the effectiveness of Art Therapy and Music Reminiscence Activity on cognition in community-living elderly affected by mild cognitive impairment. The findings concluded the positive neurocognitive improvements attributed to art therapy and its relative effect as compared to music reminiscence activity in improving memory, attention and visuospatial abilities and executive functions. 

Choral Singing for the Prevention of Dementia (Tan et al., 2018)

This research project aims to evaluate the efficacy of choral singing and its underlying biological mechanism as a potential public health programme for the prevention of cognitive decline catered to community-dwelling elderly. With a randomised-control design, the participants were invited to attend weekly sessions for choral singing for two years and the outcomes assessed in this study elucidated the underlying biological mechanisms as a result of choral singing and provided evidence in support of creative arts in the prevention of cognitive decline for elderly. 

Beyond “Happy Arts for Happy People”: IPS-SAM Spotlight on Cultural Policy Series -- Roundtable on the Development of Community Arts in Singapore (2017)

The roundtable discussion was conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies on the topic of the development of community arts in Singapore, involving academics, policymakers, artists, representatives from voluntary welfare organisations and civil society activists. The discussion was centred on the impact and progress of existing community arts initiatives and facilitates exchanges of perspectives across different stakeholders. The discussions highlight the fundamental differences between how policymakers and art practitioners think and there were also areas where agreement between both parties were evident. Sustained dialogue and compromises must be made by both sides. Based on the exchanges, recommendations on furthering the development of community arts were also discussed in the report.

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