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Arts on prescription and museums: a conversation with Tasha Golden

Arts on prescription and museums: a conversation with Tasha Golden

Today, I’m exploring how arts, culture and museums can be ‘prescribed’ for health and wellbeing with Dr. Tasha Golden, a former singer-songwriter turned public health scientist and Director of Research at the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University.

We explore:

  • The origins and evolution of social prescribing
  • what ‘arts on prescription‘ is and its role in improving health and wellbeing
  • The positive effects of arts engagement on mental and physical health, social connection, and overall quality of life
  • Practical guidance on implementing arts-based interventions using the ‘Arts on Prescription Field Guide’
  • insights from the ‘Culture RX’ pilot programme, including, for example, how Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston, extended their reach by bringing art educators into hospitals
  • The involvement of museums and cultural institutions in arts on prescription initiatives
  • Outcomes and lessons learned from the ‘Culture RX’ pilot programme
  • Future prospects for ‘arts on prescription’ in the US and how museums can get more involved

Listen to my conversation with Tasha Golden about arts on prescription and museums or read the transcript below.


Arts on Prescription Field Guide

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0:00:13 – Claire
Hello and welcome to the Art Engager podcast with me, Claire Bown. I’m here to share techniques and tools to help you engage with your audience and bring art objects and ideas to life. So let’s dive into this week’s show.

Hello and welcome back to the Art Engager podcast. I’m your host, Claire Bown, from Thinking Museum, and this is episode 122. Today I’m thrilled to be chatting with Dr Tasha Golden, a public health scientist specialising in the intersection of creativity and health. We’ll be exploring the Arts on Prescription field guide.

But before that, in our last episode, I had a great chat with Cecilia Monrad about See Listen Talk, a programme aiding young psychiatric service users in their recovery through slow looking. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do go back and listen to episode 121.

Don’t forget that the Art Engager has over 100 episodes to choose from. Take your pick from the back catalogue of different episodes to brush up on your skills, be inspired and learn new techniques. And if you’d like to shape future episodes, get in touch. If you have a question for the show or a topic idea, or even want to suggest a guest, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m always eager to hear from you, especially if you’re an educator doing innovative work with engagement with art objects and audiences in museums and heritage. And if you’d like to support the show and help it thrive in 2024, consider treating me to a cup of tea on Alright, let’s get on with today’s show.

So my guest today, Dr Tasha Golden, wears many hats. She’s the director of research at the International Arts and Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University and a leading voice in arts and public health. With a PhD in public health sciences, she’s published extensively on how arts, music, aesthetics and social norms impact health and being, and beyond academia, tasha advises on various health projects globally, teaches at the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine and authored Arts on Prescription, a field guide for US communities. But that’s not all. Tasha is also an accomplished singer-songwriter, a published poet and the founder of Project Uncaged, a program helping teen women in prisons through creative writing. So in today’s conversation we explore how Tasha found her niche at the crossroads of arts and health.

We chat about the origins of social prescribing and its potential to complement traditional health care. We explore the Arts on Prescription field guide, who it’s for and the evidence supporting the positive impacts of arts on mental and physical health. Additionally, we examine the role museums can play in Arts on Prescription initiatives. We highlight some of the outcomes from the CultureRx pilot program and we discuss future steps for improving health and wellbeing in our communities. Finally, we explore what museums can do to get more involved with Arts on Prescription. So let’s jump into our chat. Hi, tasha, and welcome to the Art Engager podcast. Oh, thank you so much for having me, claire. I’m delighted you’re here. Perhaps you could start by explaining to listeners who you are and what you do.

0:04:28 – Tasha
Oh, thank you. I am Tasha Golden. I was a career singer-songwriter, I’m now a public health scientist specializing in the roles of creativity in the arts, in health and wellbeing, and I direct research for the International Arts and Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. I also love that I get to work with creative organizations all over the world, helping them apply the science of creativity and being to enhance and grow their work in their communities.

0:04:55 – Claire
You’ve had a super interesting path to your current work. How does your background feed into the work you’re doing now?

0:05:03 – Tasha
Yes, this was not the plan right. I was never sitting around after a show, being like you know what? Yeah, I wanted to be a singer for my whole life. From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to write songs and travel around the world and play them. And I got to do that for a lot of years and had songs and TV shows and movies and things like that and got to work with amazing musicians and like everything that I had dreamt of.

But a couple of things were happening in the midst of all of that that I think some people listening will really resonate with. First, I had songs about difficult experiences in my life, like my family’s history of domestic violence or my own history of major depressive disorder and where we went in the world. Those were the songs that people lined up after concerts wanting to talk about, and over the years hundreds of people have shared really personal stories with me based on those songs that they had heard stories about mental illness, about suicide ideation, about abuse histories and a lot of them followed that up by saying that I’m the first person they had ever told. And if you think about that, what an honor. But I also couldn’t help thinking this means that they haven’t ever told a doctor or a therapist, they haven’t told a spouse or a partner. It means that the community services that are designed to meet the needs of folks who have these types of histories had clearly never reached these individuals right. So I think there’s some kind of gap here between what’s possible in the space of the arts and what’s not yet possible in these other parts of our community and parts of our lives.

And then also, simultaneously, I was really running myself into the ground, without realizing it, eventually wound up in catastrophic burnout, major depression, couldn’t get out of bed, let alone play concerts right, and I had to reimagine who I was and what it is that I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Where was this path going to take me? And in that moment the question and the curiosity that kept coming back to me was like what was it that was happening in these music venues in the context of songs, and why was music able to make these life experiences ‘talk about-able’? And what can we learn from that? To change and how did we change the way that we imagine our health and wellbeing in our communities? And I wound up founding a program called Project Uncaged as a trauma-informed creative writing program for girls that are incarcerated and notice the same thing again. Not surprising girls share really different information in their poems and their songs than they share in questionnaires or conversations. So it was again that question of what is it that we don’t know about each other, about our communities, about these experiences of our lives that are keeping us from finding solutions and pathways forward that could make wellbeing more possible for more people, and I followed those questions into a PhD in public health and to the work that I get to do now.

0:07:46 – Claire
It’s so interesting and it’s reminding me of things I’ve been reading over the last few years about the evidence that’s been coming out about the effects that the arts, that culture, can have on our physical health, on our mental health. So what has changed in the last perhaps five years in this sector?

0:08:07 – Tasha
Oh yeah, you’re totally right. Especially over the last five or 10 years, there’s been increasing research, the research accumulating over the last 20 years especially, and then this increasing interest, and I think a lot of it the pandemic, to be honest, has fed into that interest as well. I think a lot of it has to do with people recognizing that we are really vast, complex beings as humans and the idea that a simple pharmaceutical solution is always going to be able to solve for everything or that even just our traditional health care systems can adequately address the vastness of the human experience. Our health care advances have done so much for humans and for our wellbeing and we can’t downplay that. But I think at the same time, especially as we run into issues of what would it mean to truly be well and to thrive and flourish, why is it that, even when things might materially be going okay, we still are suffering in many ways, the sense of isolation or trauma that can come from not only being separated from people during a pandemic, but from, like, devastating loss and illness and things like this? We recognize that there aren’t simple solutions and we also recognize that we need each other. We know that we need more social connection, a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning, purpose, the sense of interest and curiosity that makes us want to wake up in the morning.

And I think that what we’re seeing is an increasing interest in what does and how do we make whatever that is more and more available to more people. How do we tap into that to learn more? And we know that the things that make us well are also things that help keep us from getting sick. These aren’t separate concepts, right? So I think that’s part of where the interest is coming from is people being like there are urgent crises of mental health and social isolation, and the typical health care system is not going to solve for those. So what do we do next? And people have these experiences in their lives of creativity and the benefits of the arts, and it’s like, alright, how can we tap into this and learn more so that we can make some advances that really make it possible to thrive?

0:10:12 – Claire
Yeah, something that you’re making me think about was the definition of health as not being about an absence of something, an absence of disease. It’s not about ill being, but it’s about complete wellbeing, and that, for me, really changed the way I thought about health, when I thought about that as a definition, and then the way that museums might play into this feeling of flourishing, as you talk about, thinking about mental and physical wellbeing, the two things together equaling flourishing, rather than just thinking about health in terms of prescribing or the medical hospital aspect of it or visiting your doctor. Yeah, it’s a complete kind of switch, yeah.

0:10:56 – Tasha
Yes, I’m so glad that you mentioned that so much of our work at this intersection of arts and health is grounded in the WHO’s definition of health that you’re mentioning here, that from the 1940s they said that health is a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

And I always highlight that word complete. That’s a really high bar that we gloss over sometimes. But health is complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. And so when you recognize that, you can realize that in traditional ideas of health, even if you look at your emojis on your phone and you type in health, the things that come up are medicalized emojis, a stethoscope, a doctor, and from that definition we can see that health is full wellbeing. So, yes, the absence of disease we have to reduce injury, disease, suffering, pain, and also there has to be the presence of something, the presence of wellbeing, that allows us to thrive and connect. And once you see wellbeing in that larger way, just as you said, Claire, your imagination gets ignited as far as what creates that, what cultivates that and what role in museums and creatives and artists all around the world play in that definition of health. There’s so much more to it than we might have previously thought.

0:12:08 – Claire
Yeah, absolutely, and this brings us nicely on towards arts on prescription or social prescribing. I’ve read about lots of schemes in the UK, where I’m originally from, but also in Belgium, in Singapore, I think, canada as well. So could you tell us what social prescribing and arts on prescription are in a nutshell? Are they the same thing, and could you tell us a little bit about them?

0:12:34 – Tasha
They are very similar. Social prescribing really refers to prescribing or referring patients to things in the community that can meet their social needs, and social needs means anything from like your housing and food or support groups that you might need to just to things that you may need in order to like, so basic material needs, but also your need for connection, your need for meaning, your need to have a meaningful occupation of your time or be able to pursue your interests. So in countries that have social prescribing programs and, like you mentioned, like UK, belgium, singapore, canada, all over the world, many countries have been doing this for a really long time Physicians can not only refer people to like more traditional healthcare situations, like you might say, like a physical therapist or an occupational therapist, but they can also refer people to experiences in their community. So that can be, like I mentioned, housing assistance. It can be job skills training and be volunteering opportunities. But, yes, it can also be arts and culture experiences like a community choir or a music class, all kinds of, or nature, being in parks, gardening, all kinds of things like that. It’s a really broad, it’s a recognition that humans have really broad needs and that sometimes those needs can be met inside a clinic and then a lot of needs that humans have are going to be need to be met in their communities and rather than being like, I’m a physician, I can’t meet that needs, good luck. The social prescribing program is like connecting physicians and clinicians, social workers, with those with really concrete ways to connect their patients to those things that the provider might recognize that they need. And so arts and prescription is a subset of social prescribing. It’s the way that we have come to talk about the specific referrals to arts and culture and nature. So, while social prescribing is a larger umbrella, like I said, can include, like housing and food assistance and all these different kinds of things in the community that you might need or benefit from, arts and prescription is our way of homing in on the specific experiences that might be arts, culture, nature related in communities.

And in the US we don’t have quote unquote social prescribing widespread quite yet, although there’s increasing interest in it. But I think a lot of people don’t realize that we do have quote unquote community referrals. Most physicians and clinicians in the US do have some way to refer patients to some community resources. They tend to be really basic and of course the processes vary in their effectiveness and success across the US. But we do understand and value the fact that there are needs that patients might have that can and should be met in their community.

So in that respect, our efforts with arts and prescription and indeed with social prescribing in the US as this field grows is really just about filling out and completing a process that already does exist. If there are health benefiting resources in your community and we know that arts and culture and nature are health benefiting resources then why wouldn’t that be part of what physicians and social workers can refer their patients and clients to? So it’s exciting to see it expanding, and we see providers being excited about this too, because they’re like you’re basically just expanding my toolkit. I have more ways to help people meet their needs where before I might not have had anything that I could do about specific needs like social isolation.

0:15:45 – Claire
Yeah, and you’ve written a resource. Now this is a fantastic resource for providers, for anyone who’s interested in finding out more about arts on prescription, how it might work. So can you tell us a little bit about the field guide?

0:15:59 – Tasha
Yes, we have a field guide called Arts and Prescription, a field guide for US communities, but it’s relevant all over the world. Take what applies in your country and run with it. But basically what happened is that we I was asked to lead an evaluation of CultureRx in Massachusetts in the US, which is the first statewide Arts and Prescription program here in the States, and we learned so much from that program because it was all across the state you can imagine many different kinds of organizations, including museums and also theaters and dance studios, and they were all working with different kinds of healthcare providers and social care providers, mental health therapists, things like that, and so, because of that variety, we learned so much from it. And Mass Cultural Council that had kind of spearheaded this CultureRx program, the State Arts Council they wanted to create a kind of guide that would help people learn from what we had done Because, as you can imagine, when you’re doing something really new, there’s a lot of trial and error, there’s a lot of starting from scratch, and we had learned so much that it was like we don’t want other people to start from scratch as much as we did, but there’s so much that you can learn from people who have done it before and we wanted people to be able to stand on the shoulders of that work, but not just for Massachusetts but for the entire country.

So we brought in the University of Florida and for arts and medicine that had been doing a lot of great social prescribing research in the US and we were able to benefit from their early research with a lot of other pilots across the US, as well as what we had learned in Massachusetts and, of course, what we know from the broader literature about arts effects on all kinds of health conditions.

And we pulled all of that together to create a guide. And I wanna tell you all that the guide is not just like a big report of like here’s what arts and prescription is. We designed it to be incredibly practically hands-on, useful so that if somebody like anybody listening right now, if you’re like I, would my museum work or my creative work to be part of a scheme where providers could be referring people to this organization that I’m part of, we wanted you to have this guy to be like here’s how I could do it. Let’s lay out a blueprint basically for how I could start this work. So we are so excited to have that guide out there and to see people taking it up and using it as their guide, using it as their pathway to create these kinds of models in their own unique communities, with their own unique resources.

0:18:14 – Claire
Yeah, and how might museums or museum educators use this guide? So how might they use this?

0:18:22 – Tasha
Thank you for asking that. The first thing that I would say is that you can use it to get ideas for what the heck this might even look like for your museum, because there have been many museums doing this work. They’re all doing it in different ways or offering different things. For example, some museums they’re inviting people to come to the museum as part of their referral process, but then some museums are going out taking art teachers and art facilitators into children’s hospitals. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has done that work, taking their work to long-term patients in the children’s hospital. So there’s so many different ways to imagine it.

You can get lots of ideas, but then also, if you are a museum educator or you’re working with an institution in your community, if you get the guide, what you can find is like what is the background for this? What is some of the science behind, how what I do might be connected to people’s health and well-being? And that way you can start ideating around. What is it that you think that you might be able to offer to your community members in terms of health and wellbeing, not just in terms of the general benefits of the arts, but specifically in terms of health and wellbeing and what you might be able to offer to healthcare providers and social care providers in your community as far as extending their toolkits. And then, once you get some of those ideas, then there’s some things you’re gonna have to think through.

What exactly are we gonna offer? What evidence do we have that could address some of the health concerns that are urgent or priorities in our community, and what partnerships are we gonna need to make to do that? What systems are we gonna have to set up to make referrals possible? Those are all the questions, and those are exactly why the guide exists just to help walk people through. Know, like, really, how does this go from idea to action? How do I take this cool idea and turn it into something that’s actually happening?

0:20:02 – Claire
Oh, this is so useful. I hear all the time about fantastic projects that are happening all over the world. We’ve had many on this podcast as well, and it’s wonderful to be able to spread the word, because I think museums can play such an important role within human flourishing, within human mental and physical wellbeing. There are so many amazing initiatives out there, and quite often it’s about spreading the word, but it’s also about how these projects might be set up, how they might work and also how they might find organizations to partner with and to collaborate with. So having a guide is so useful. So can you tell us a little bit about the pilots and what were your findings from it? Maybe from the participant’s perspective, but also the physicians, or maybe the providers as well. What did you find out?

0:20:52 – Tasha
Yeah, what I would love for listeners to know is that each of these museums were involved in this kind of program in a different way, and why that’s so important is that there’s not a cookie cutter or prescriptive process for this. It’s not about what did another museum do and how can we just copy that? If that’s inspiring to you, yes, but you don’t have to copy what another institution is doing just because they’re also a museum. For example, like I mentioned, there was the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that had arts educators that had worked with children and could take our kids and art lessons and go into hospital rooms and work with children and make art there and, as you can imagine, the children. The way that they described it was like this room is a place of kind of stress and they don’t like being there, but for that 60 minutes it was a kind of space of creativity and magic. I’m getting a little emotional, but the nurses and the staff of the hospital also appreciated that so much because it’s like creating an island, a respite of creativity for these young people. And then from the museum perspective, it’s both like going out into the community. You don’t have to come into this institution. That maybe you haven’t heard of or maybe you’re intimidated by, or maybe it’s too expensive. We can come to you. And then sometimes they would give tickets to the families, like if the families were interested. It’s like they’d encountered the museum in this unique scenario. They get a ticket and then later, once that child’s no longer in the hospital or once they’re able, they can go as a family to the museum if they had wanted to. So just new way of not only providing health and wellbeing in this creative sense that was new to the hospital and new to the museum, but also cultivating a better relationship with the community that might invite and welcomes people in.

And then, in a really different scenario, you have the Clark in Massachusetts that had worked with. Instead of a specific clinic or a specific hospital, they’d worked with like a dozen or more mental, like individual mental health therapists that had their own clientele, and each of those therapists got a lot of information and packets from the Clark that they could hand out to their mental health patients and clients. And in that case what was so interesting is the way that each of those individual therapists was using this tool right. But in that case the museum had created these packets. People could color pictures and just learn more about the museum. Also, they had the tickets in there to come visit the museum, also a coupon for coffee that they could get in the cafe if they came to visit.

And some of the ways that therapists were using this were like talking through things in the packet, but also so even if the person didn’t actually go to the museum, they got to have these important conversations that improved their back and forth as therapists and client. But then also they were using it a lot to help people get out of the house and make friends, because it wasn’t just here go to the museum and have an experience. It was like you have two tickets, you can call a friend and take them. But and this is so fascinating we found that the coupon for coffee mattered so much, or the coupon for a free item in the cafe, basically Because not only could somebody maybe invite a friend that they hadn’t seen or reached out to in a long time and say come to the museum with me, but also we can get a sandwich or a coffee and sit down and talk for a little bit, and that was so important.

It was like this extra push, like I will invite somebody not just to go to the museum but to have a lunch with me or a coffee with me and we’ll reconnect. And the therapists were seeing that science were using that to make some new social connections. So there’s a lot of ways to, as museums, to imagine the work that you do not just as, oh, if somebody comes and gets a free ticket, that can boost their health absolutely it can. And then there are some beyond that, some really creative and decisive ways that you can further benefit people’s ability to be healthy, to find mental wellbeing, and sometimes it can be as simple as a coupon for a free sandwich.

0:24:36 – Claire
Exactly so thinking quite creatively about what this might look like in your museum a very simple coupon to one-off visits, to free entrance to the museum, two weeks or month-long workshop. I’ve also heard of museums working with certain organisations or individuals over longer periods of time. All of these fit under this umbrella of arts. On prescription, and I think what was interesting reading about the findings from CultureRx as well. So many different types of organisations, cultural organisations, were involved, but it was fascinating reading not just how the participants really enjoyed the experience but also how the physicians found it really uplifting to prescribe in such a positive way a positive thing to be prescribing to someone.

0:25:30 – Tasha
Yes, the providers said things like in the medical field we’re often telling people to stop doing things that they like doing, like drinking caffeine, or to start doing things they don’t necessarily want to do.

Move your body more every day and sometimes they can feel like they’re in that position of mourning or whatever.

And in this case they said that for the first time.

Really they felt like they were.

They said words like I feel like this is prescribing beauty or prescribing joy and you’re offering something that people like innately want and, as you all can imagine, like the past few years have been so difficult for healthcare providers, so like unprecedented levels of burnout and to have something that just legitimately feels good as a physician to be able to offer.

You can imagine how that could affect their own quality of life and their own sense as well that they’re able to truly meet needs. If you see somebody who just seems to be suffering in a way that’s beyond what you could typically do as a physician, it can feel demoralizing to not be able to do much for them or to say, oh, you could try A, b and C but not be able to provide the resources to do A, b and C, but in this case, you could try to go to this museum, see what it feels like to get out, to, just to be in a beautiful space to think about something new or different, and it’s going to be free, if you have this prescription from me, to go do it.

0:26:45 – Claire
And did you encounter any challenges, any things that gave you pause for thought during the pilot, anything that kind of made you rethink some of the terms of engagement or the way people might be engaging with this type of program?

0:27:01 – Tasha
There were definitely barriers that we encountered in the process. That, like, there might be a really great idea, but then people couldn’t get there, transportation wound up being a barrier or sometimes child care. And then some things like there were some cases in which maybe a mental health client didn’t quite feel included or welcomed or represented at a museum whose collection wasn’t widely representative across diverse backgrounds and races and experiences. And for those types of situations what we found was like the organizations were so responsive. They’re like okay, this is great to know. Actually like how can we change our collection? How can we become more inclusive and welcoming? And then we did a lot of work around wrap around care this concept of wrap around care, what you can read about in the guide.

As far as when you’re setting up a program, how do you think not only about providing access to the experience that you offer, but all of the things that actually go into somebody legitimately having access? If somebody gets a ticket to a museum but can’t get there, or they don’t have childcare, or they just don’t have time between work, after work, to go home and cook a meal for their kids and then also get to a museum, what are we going to do to make it possible for more and more people to have access, and all of those things can be such exciting, creative, collaborative things to talk about. They are barriers, but they are also exciting opportunities because they just entail getting even more creative and imaginative and getting more collaborative in the community. As far as okay. Who do we need to connect with to make this a truly wrap around scenario where people can legitimately access care?

And we also do recommend a lot of things like training and in diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, we recommend trainings in trauma-informed practice and mental health, and I have developed some of those trainings over the last few years to help creative organizations and it just increases confidence. It’s not just about how can you do no harm. That’s a huge part of it. That’s step number one. And then also learning some of those things can make you even more imaginative and creative in the work that you do, because it gives you so many ideas about how to connect with humans in new ways.

0:29:06 – Claire
Absolutely, and we’ve talked about trauma-informed practice a number of times on this podcast. It’s such a useful training, not just for museum educators working with the groups, the audiences, the communities they work with, but for themselves as well. They’re getting that kind of self-knowledge and self-understanding that can help them address perhaps sometimes their own issues of burnout or exhaustion when they’re constantly working with communities.

0:29:34 – Tasha
Oh, absolutely I’ve been. I considered a big honor to be able to work with organizations and institutions like museums for these trainings, and a big part of that work I will say because of my background as a career artist who faced burnout that literally stole my career from me is how it felt at the time that burnout and depression took away my dream right, this thing that I was really passionate about. So I have no illusions that being an artist, despite how critical the arts are for our health, I have no illusions that being in an arts field is going to be some kind of panacea and that you don’t yourself have things that you have to, they have to take care of and help process through. And it’s become really important for me that we not only think about how creativity and the arts can benefit the general public and it’s a conceptual way but also how are we caring for the creatives and the arts educators themselves, how are we taking care of the people who are taking care of us through these institutions in our communities, right, and so a big part of this work in trauma-informed practice is exactly as you said, claire, like how do we not only learn to take care of other people but recognize that practice begins with taking care of us, and a big principle of my trainings is that you learn trauma-informed practice by practicing it on yourself, and if you don’t know how to apply these principles to yourself, you won’t be able to offer to other people you will.

You’ll basically burn out. You can’t draw water from an empty well, right, and sometimes I have noticed that for a lot of creatives we don’t realize how much executive function we are using up, trying to resist the reality of our human experience and the difficulties that we’re facing, the things that we haven’t been able to process, and over time that takes away your ability to be creative. And if we can open up space to have these difficult conversations and to talk about what’s really going on with us, you can open up that as a kind of creative space and you can release some of that cognitive load that you’ve been bearing, just trying to push through without looking at it right. And then suddenly people leave trainings with just all kinds of ideas for their work and for their museum, for their organization, but also for their own personal lives or their personal creative activities. And that’s such an important, foundational part of this work in arts and health is making sure that we know how to support and prepare ourselves and each other as well.

0:31:53 – Claire
Oh, wholeheartedly agree. Such important work as well. I’d love to think about what’s next for arts on prescription in the US and lean into this idea of how can museums get more involved.

0:32:07 – Tasha
Oh, what is next, I think, is seeing a lot of ideation at these hyper local levels around what is this going to look like here. And I think there is a big draw to imagining like a national program that we can all just like link up into, right?

But also right now, right at our fingertips, is the opportunity for people in local communities to devise their own version of this kind of work and go ahead and make it happen. I’m often saying that people get excited about the idea of arts and prescription, and I think sometimes from the arts sectors oh, finally, people in the health fields are recognizing how valuable we are to them, and that’s true and that is exciting. But sometimes that can that can initiate a sort of waiting.

They’re going to come to us now and ask us to do something and I will just say that don’t wait. You are the creatives, you are the ideators, you are the imaginers in your community and that means that you are probably best situated to imagine what this could look like and to take that idea, with the wealth of evidence that we have, with the guidance of something like the field guide, and take that to potential partners in your community, to initiate conversations and to set something up. And there are, as time goes. Since the guide has come out, even in the fall, there are even more emerging programs and more situations, and you can get so many ideas from that to spark things.

And yeah, I would say, don’t wait for somebody to come to you. Recognize that you do have the, you do have the creativity and some of the resources are available to you to make this happen. And there are people who can help you ideate and strategize as part of what I do sometimes. But there are so many other people engaged in this work who are also sources of brainstorming and making this go, and this is such a great moment to recognize that the work that you do is valuable to more people in more ways than you might have even recognized. And sometimes what you can do with arts and prescription is enhance and expand what you already offer. And sometimes the work that you do in arts and prescription is just figuring out how to make what you do legible and understandable to people who aren’t in your sector in a new way, so that they can connect and recognize the value of your work to what they’re already trying to do. Absolutely.

0:34:13 – Claire
Yes, whole heartedly agree. Again, I was thinking the field guide has only been out a few months. What has the reaction been so far? From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of buzz around it at the moment.

0:34:24 – Tasha
Yes, and I think people are so excited to just have what feels like concrete guidance that this has been a sort of swirling idea. Like you said, over the last five or 10 years. People are increasingly talking about the effects of the arts on health, but I think we’ve reached a time of what’s the so? What then? If we know that art is good for your health, then what are we going to do about it? And at some level for the last several years, it’s just been this kind of beg idea of everybody should make more art, everybody should expose themselves to more arts experiences. It’s been always a really individual level. Hey, like getting your 10,000 steps every day or whatever. People talk about drinking water and go, try to experience art.

But this is more recognizing, as a society and as full communities, that we have these assets available to us and we have left them off the table so far, and that is wild. At a time when we’re facing crises of mental health, we’re facing crises like epidemic of loneliness. We cannot afford to sleep on these resources that are right here in our communities, and so if we know resources that can benefit people’s health, why should we not tap into those? Why are we not figuring out how to make those part of our health care structures, of our social care structures, and this is the so what. It’s not the only one, but it is a real and present way that we can plug this information into actually change people’s lives, and there are so many different ways to do it. I think people are really excited to see how can we turn a swirl of an abstract idea into an actual, concrete phenomenon that can benefit people’s lives in a real way.

0:36:00 – Claire
Beautiful, yeah, and I think everybody should download the Arts on Prescription Field Guide. It will connect all the dots for you and will give you the steps you need to put some things in place for your organization. So perhaps you could tell us how we can find out more about Arts on Prescription, download the guide, and perhaps how we can find out more about you as well.

0:36:21 – Tasha
Yes, thank you you all. Please go get the guide, it is free. It is like a hundred and something pages and an absurd number of appendices with all kinds of practical things for you. It is at tashagoldencom slash field guide. It made it nice and easy and memorable for you. And then also, if you want to work with me, I do offer trainings in trauma-informed practice and mental health for creative organizations, including museums and arts institutions of all kinds, would be happy to work with you or to work with your organization to figure out how you can advance the work that you do using what we know about how the Arts benefit people’s health.

0:36:58 – Claire
Thank you so much for chatting with me today. It’s been a pleasure.

0:37:01 – Tasha
We could have talked for hours and hours about this subject oh, thank you so much, claire, it’s been a delight. Thanks for having me.

0:37:10 – Claire
So a huge thank you to Tasha for joining us on the podcast today. I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did. Be sure to check out the show notes for more information about the Arts on Prescription field guide and to connect with Tasha on LinkedIn or Instagram. And if you’re attending the American Alliance of Museums conference in Baltimore in May 2024, tasha will be one of the speakers speaking about Arts on Prescription and I’ll also be there facilitating a workshop on slow looking. Before and after the conference, I’ll be traveling around the east coast. I’ll be in Boston, I’ll be in New York and some other places, so do get in touch if you’re interested in hiring me for a half day or a full day workshop or a speaking engagement at your museum or organization. I’d love to connect whilst I’m in the area, so I’ll put a link in the show notes if you want to get in touch.

That just about wraps up this episode. Thank you for tuning in. I’ll see you next time. Bye, thank you for listening to the Art Engager podcast with me, Claire Bown. You can find more art engagement resources by visiting my website,, and you can also find me on Instagram @thinkingmuseum, where I regularly share tips and tools on how to bring art to life and engage your audience. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please share with others and subscribe to the show on your podcast player of choice. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.