Understanding the Experience and Impact of a Community Art Studio Initiative for Adults with Serious Mental Illness through Narrative Explorations

By Amanda Dam, Isabel Fryszberg and Bonnie Kirsh.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Purpose: This study investigated the experience of a community art studio initiative for adults with mental illness. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants and analysis of the data yielded five themes. Results: Members valued having a free and well-equipped restorative arts environment outside the hospital that builds their capacity and mastery through opportunities for creativity and self expression. Belonging to an accepting community of shared experience focusing on positive interests built social capital. Members experienced an improved sense of personal well-being that was transferable to multiple domains of their lives and that led to increased participation in other occupations and renewed hope for future roles. The findings reveal that meaningful activity must be creative, flexible, and provide the right level of challenge to have positive health impacts. Practice Implications: This study suggests that there is a need for resources for people with mental illness that focus on creativity, productivity and health. It points to the role occupational therapy can play by integrating art, work, and wellness for a healthy community.

Keywords: Capacity Building, Social Equity, Accessibility, Transformation, Restoration, Creativity, Social Capital, Art exhibit, Mental Illness, Strucure, Productivity, Mental Illness, Mental Health

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.53-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 542.460KB).

Amanda Dam

Occupational Therapist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Amanda Dam is currently an Occupational Therapist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in the Law and Mental Health program. She recently graduated from University of Toronto and completed the research project “Understanding the Experience and Impact of an Art Studio Initiative for Adults with Serious Mental Illness through Narrative Exploration” as part of her MSc. OT degree.

Isabel Fryszberg

Occupational Therapist/Artist Facilitator, Creative Works Studio an Occupational Based Community Art Program of Inner City Health and Mental Health Community OutReach Program, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Creative Works Studio, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON Canada www.creativeworks-studio.ca. Isabel Fryszberg is an Occupational Therapist and multi disciplinary artist (musician, singer, filmmaker) who over a period of ten years developed a restorative community arts studio called the Creative Works Studio for adults with long term mental illness. This program, Creative Works Studio, was developed as part of the Inner City Health Program of St. Michael’s Hospital. The goal of the studio is to reduce the stigma of mental illness, shift culture from one based on illness to one based on creativity and art, reduce economic barriers by providing fully resourced artist studio that is of no cost to the participant recognizing the lack of ecconomic resources of this marginalized under resourced population who under regular circumstances would not be privy to any access to participating in an art studio or community, and to build their capacities. Isabel Fryszberg continues to facilitate the Creative Works Studio. Since the time of the study the studio has recently expanded to being open five days a week. The Creative Works Studio has recently partnered with a new organization called the Good Shepherd Non Profit Homes Inc and have moved into a larger studio space. Creative Works Studio is currently beginning a new research study in collaboration with the University of Toronto Occupational Therapy and Science Department. This study is aimed to further expand on the initial findings by involving a new pool of subject participants.

Dr. Bonnie Kirsh

Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Graduate Department, Rehabilitation Science University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cross Appointments: a.. Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto b.. Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto c.. Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Work and Health d.. Adjunct Associate Professor, School of OT, Dalhousie University Cross Appointments a.. Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto b.. Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto c.. Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Work and Health d.. Adjunct Associate Professor, School of OT, Dalhousie University School of Graduate Studies a.. Full Member Bonnie Kirsh has recently been appointed to the Workforce Advisory Committee within the Mental Health Commission of Canada, where she will be contributing to the national plan for mental health in this country. Her primary research focuses on community and work integration for persons with mental illnesses. She has conducted studies examining consumer perspectives on work integration and the relationship of organizational culture to employment. She has examined Canadian principles and practices in the area of work integration and is studying supported employment in a pan-Canadian project examining the operationalization and impacts of this model. Her community mental health research agenda also includes the study of best practices in supported housing. Another area of research is workplace mental health, including trajectories of persons who experience depression at work and related issues of disability management and return to work. In addition, her research addresses the experiences of injured workers, and in particular, their mental health needs. She is currently part of a multi-site CURA project examining the impacts of the compensation system on the mental health of injured workers. She uses mixed methods in her research including quantitative, qualitative and participatory research. She is also the Chair of the Program Review for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Within the Department of OS&OT she teaches courses in Research and Psychosocial Perspectives in OT.

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