Arts Participation and Wellbeing in Regional Western Australia: A Quantitative Study of the Shire of Denmark in the Great Southern Region

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In 2006, Ms Anwar McHenry was awarded first class honours for this thesis, which was submitted in December 2005 for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Arts Management) at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.

This thesis explores the belief that engaging in the arts has a positive influence on wellbeing, not just for individuals considered disadvantaged or “at-risk”, but also for the wellbeing of society and communities. An attempt was also made to determine how the benefits of participation in the arts compares to the possible benefits derived from other forms of community participation. An examination into the current literature on arts participation and its links with wellbeing, as well as social impact research was combined with a quantitative survey derived and adapted from wellbeing indicators. The survey was conducted via telephone interviews with 76 participants residing in the Shire of Denmark, Western Australia. The sample was made up of the combination of a pre-test sample, drawn from all sectors of the community, and 61 participants randomly selected from the local telephone directory. Significant relationships were found with both arts and community participation in relation to positive and negative affect, personal attitudes and traits, and trust and solidarity within the community. These relationships were evident for both the amount of time spent participating, as well as with the particular status as a participant or non-participant. Arts participation was more strongly associated with the direct cognitive measure ‘satisfaction with quality of life’ than community participation. The only item that revealed a relationship with both community participation and total participation, but not arts participation, was one that represented empowerment and political action as an aspect of social capital. The sample size was smaller than anticipated, and the presence of confounding variables and a large overlap between arts and community participants hindered the analysis of the data. Despite these limitations, this research has developed a workable methodology from which future research can be based, as well as demonstrated the ease with which standardised satisfaction, wellbeing and social capital measures can be adapted and administered to explore the relationship between arts participation and community wellbeing. It is recommended that future research continue this focus on the place of the arts in a healthy society and how involvement in the arts can contribute to overall wellbeing, sustainability and health, rather than the evaluation of short term or one-off arts projects as an interventionist approach.

ISBN: 978-3838318318

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Arts Participation and Wellbeing in Regional Western Australia: A Quantitative Study of the Shire of Denmark in the Great Southern Region may be accessed from the National Library of Australia here