Arts and Culture
Arts and culture are essential to health, well-being, and equity. They foster a sense of belonging and community connection. Through creative and cultural expression, we tell the story of our shared humanity. Art builds civic muscle, influences social movements, promotes inclusivity, builds community, and empowers communities to address health disparities collectively.
Strengthening support for arts and culture can improve vital community conditions. Art and culture can:
Visual arts, theater, storytelling, and media have advanced movements on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, substance use, mental health stigma, and other issues. In disaster recovery, community-based artists can provide emotional support and inspire collective action through storytelling to foster transformative change in affected communities.
Unfortunately, financial support for the arts is lacking, despite the contributions of art, artists, and cultural institutions to transform our systems and communities for health, well-being, and equity. The arts in public education have been disinvested for decades. During the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. policymakers decreased investments in arts education, resulting in a loss of $87.5 million for state arts programs, and debated eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. Arts education is crucial in supporting personal development and creativity among youth. Due in part to efforts to prioritize subjects like math and science, disadvantaged students risk losing access to the arts and the benefits of a well-rounded education.
Many artists struggle to make ends meet. From 2019 to 2020, the arts economy experienced a reduction of over half a million jobs. In response, President Biden allocated $75 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, aiming to strengthen the arts and culture sector and support organizations profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A revival in publicly-supported arts will require policy and systems change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made headway in supporting and collaborating with diverse artists and organizations to use art's power to raise awareness and facilitate dialogue around health disparities. Initiatives supported by organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts further amplify these efforts, illustrating the collective commitment to engaging marginalized communities through arts and culture, working collaboratively to reduce health inequalities and enhance overall well-being. Local communities and changemakers can leverage arts and culture to advance health equity by promoting accessible and inclusive cultural activities that address the specific needs of underserved populations. Local artists can overcome social barriers and foster transformative social change to advance equity, health, and well-being.