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LINK Event - Nordic Arts & Health Research Conference (Arts Academy, Turku, Finland)

Blog post written by Liisa Laitinen (AHECRN Finland Representative), Anita Jensen (AHECRN Denmark Representative) & Gemma Goodall (AHECRN Norway Representative).


On 7th November 2018, a Nordic Arts & Health Research Conference was held as a Nordic collaboration in Turku, Finland. The aim of the event was to bring together Nordic researchers interested in the intersections of arts, culture, health and wellbeing; to share and discuss ongoing research projects; as well as to take the first steps to start building a network of Nordic Arts & Health researchers. Furthermore, one of the key objectives of the conference was to introduce work in progress of a new journal publication: Nordic Journal for Arts, Culture & Health. The conference was supported by Taikusydän initiative and the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences.


Nordic Arts & Health Research Conference brought together Arts & Health researchers from Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden

The conference attracted 41 researchers from Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The conference programme included 14 research presentations followed by three parallel workshops. The conference was opened by the keynote speaker, Adjunct Professor, Senior Researcher Pia Houni from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. In her keynote she set a fundamental and critical question to prepare the ground for the discussions of the day: what are we in fact talking about when we talk about arts and health together? Whether based on an idealistic view, experiences or research knowledge, the various impacts of arts have been contemplated throughout the history. In her keynote Houni highlighted the manifold factors associated to wellbeing and underlined the need to clarify how the different conceptions of wellbeing are employed and made visible in Arts and Health research. For example, the different concepts of subjective wellbeing, eudaimonic wellbeing and social wellbeing all offer particular and diverse approaches to examine the intersections of arts, health and wellbeing.


The first session of research presentations in the morning included four presentations focused on the theme of participatory arts, theatre and mental health. Associate Professor Anita Salamonsen (Uit - The Arctic University of Norway) opened the session with a presentation examining amateur theatre and user participation as health promotion in Nordic mental health care. Drawing on empirical research conducted in close co-operation with a North-Norwegian theatre company Teatret Våres, the creative and healing agency of amateur theatre was explored through the lens of the social model of care. This was followed by Senior Researcher Päivi Känkänen (National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland) presenting an ongoing research project assessing the effects of participation in drama workshops in reform school environment, and PhD student Kristin Berre Ørjasæter (Nord University) presenting her research project, in which she explores how participation in music and theatre workshops can support recovery processes of people with long-term mental health problems. The session ended with Associate Professor Ellen Foyn Bruun (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) sharing insights about a practice-based research project conducted together with a social enterprise Ville Veier, which offers professional service integrating arts, mental health and social work in Stavanger, Norway.


Senior Researcher Päivi Känkänen presented an ongoing research project assessing the effects of participation in drama workshops in reform school environment

The second session of research presentations focused on Arts & Health in education and therapy. Mental health nurse and Associate Professor Wigdis Helen Sæther (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) opened the session with a presentation on the power of art and culture in education and practice in mental health work. Drawing on John Dewey’s literature regarding the connection between the self and the environment, Sæther described how aesthetics and creativity are integrated into every day work and life. She explained that the arts can offer a space for self-reflection in both educational and therapeutic contexts. Futhermore, Sæther suggested that the arts can offer new ways for communication. Being in contact with a patient through art and symbolic language, as opposed to just dialogue alone, can help to improve the caring relationship. Sæther also spoke about how the arts are being integrated into medical education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. A course on Art, Culture and Activity in Mental Health Work is offered to students working within the field of mental health.


Assistant Professor Anders Juhl Rasmussen (University of Southern Denmark) presented his work on Narrative medicine and how it can contribute to medical education. This approach to treatment highlights the importance of understanding the patient narrative as a foundation for healing. Juhl Rasmussen shared insights into how medical students can be provided with introspection, reflection through learning about Narrative Medicine. He also discussed ideas on narrative empathy and its importance within the medical field.


Bibliotherapist and Senior Lecturer Päivi Kosonen presented her work on the Finnish model of Bibliotherapy, along with the potential of narratives for well-being

Professor Eva Bojner Horwitz (Royal College of Music in Stockholm and Karolinska Institutet Sweden) led an intimate workshop Reflecting #metoo with music and dance- using Microphenomenology as a way to understand social touch that explored the use of dance, body movement and music in communicating emotions and lived experiences. Professional dancers portrayed concepts such as body memories and mirror neurons through the expressive form of dance. Workshop participants shared their interpretations of each dance, along with the impact that it had on them. The workshop concluded with an open discussion and reflection on how each of the participants could incorporate microphenomenology into their own work and practice.


Professor Eva Bojner Horwitz giving instructions to two professional dancers in her workshop

During the afternoon the participants split into three parallel thematic sessions. The themes covered Arts in Health and Care, Music and health, and Sense, technology and health. These sessions were followed by workshops focusing e.g. on the new Nordic Journal for Arts, Culture and Health. In their interactive workshop Postdoc Anita Jensen (Aalborg University) and Associate Professor Wenche Torrissen (Volda University College and Nord University) presented the ongoing work on a Nordic Journal for Arts, Culture and Health. The presentation included the work that had been done so far, aims and objectives of the journal, suggested publishing house, considerations about open access and future financial models to support the journal beyond the initial three years. The workshop invited the participants to contribute with ideas, concerns and their interest in contributing in terms of authoring articles and being a reviewer. There was lively group discussion on the topics and questions such as impact factor and points for publishing were raised. The overall enthusiasm suggested that there is strong interest for Nordic Arts and Health researchers to have a publishing platform that includes the publishing opportunities in Scandinavian languages.


The next Nordic Arts & Health Research Network meeting takes place in Malmö, Sweden on 21st-22nd May 2019.

Read more about the conference here.

The full programme of the conference can be viewed here. Proceedings from the conference are available here.


Thank you to Liisa, Anita and Gemma for writing this very informative blog post. If you have an Arts and Health event that you are attending/running and would like to write a blog post please get in touch!

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