By Melody Nall, CEDIK Engagement Director
“Music therapy”, “Art therapy”, “Arts and Healing” are terms most are familiar with in the healthcare field. However, how often do we think of using art as a conversation starter with community health coalitions or with the general community that coalitions are trying to reach?
Utilizing art as a means to start conversations about community health issues became a reality when a collaboration formed between the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky (FHKY), the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky (PFKY), and the Kentucky Cancer Consortium (KCC) resulting in two interactive workshops held in Clark and Muhlenberg counties. Melissa Bond and Melody Nall, Extension Specialists with CEDIK, led participants in arts, leadership and engagement techniques to assist in new health coalition formation and in the revitalization of existing coalitions equipping participants to improve healthy eating and physical activity in their communities in a creative way.
Through hands on exercises using watercolors, creative writing, personality assessment, and collaboration strategies, over 52 participants representing 29 agencies and/or coalitions from across the state learned how to engage their local citizens, focusing on individuals that have not traditionally attended activities in their communities. Participants learned strategies to build and strengthen health coalitions, to describe techniques for planning and facilitating effective meetings, and to recognize the value of working with different personalities based on their strengths, allowing them to work effectively with all community members.
Seven coalitions received a Community Conversation Stipend provided by the PFKY for $250 to implement these strategies in their own communities. With the success of this training, the CEDIK specialists are now teaching these techniques in a variety of workshop settings, including national associations, extension agents, and youth.
The art of communicating about community needs while creating a watercolor masterpiece can lead to solutions and ideas that might not ever have emerged. Contact CEDIK if you have an organization that could benefit from this type of training.