Well-Being

When I started my professional career in the 1990's I was very interested in the connection between well-being, visual arts and design. I was then working as a guiding artist and producer in Joensuu and had the opportunity to launch some of the first art projects in Finland that aimed for enhanced well-being. My own perspective belongs to the movement of positive psychology. I adapt the things that I have researched and learned in my art projects and courses.

A book and Ph.D. dissertation can be found through the University of Jyväskylä,

Rethinking visual art practice in relation to well-being

Jaatinen, Päivi-Maria (2015): Rethinking Visual Art Practice in Relation to Well-Being. A Conceptual Analysis. Jyväskylä Series of Humanities, No.256, 322 pp. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä.

The study examines how the concepts related to visual art practice and well-being have been used in the contemporary, international research in the arts and academic sectors. Furhermore, it studies whether it is possible to create new theoretical and conceptual frameworks for research. The research material of the arts and academic sectors was examined by the methods of critical review and conceptual analysis. By adapting the views of Wittgenstein's late philosophy and Bal's cultural theory, concepts were examined by their usage. Thus, concepts are regarded as sites of discussion.

The conceptual analysis led to the following main results: The employment of the concepts concerning the practice of visual arts was diverse, often overlapping, and in some respects incoherent. Both the concepts of 'art' and ' well-being' were mostly used as reasoning with generalizations. By interpretating the philosophy by Weitz, this strategy of discourse was conceptualized as 'the stated ideal' of research. The stated ideal supports the popular statement of research which is usually constructed as follows: Art has a positive impact on well-being. However, a lack of theoretical frameworks and conceptions of both art research and contemporary psychology was discovered from the research material.

Further study led to the examination of the concepts of subjective well-being (SWB), psychological well-being (PWB), hedonic and eudaimonic well-being (EWB), and flow as an optimal balance of skills and challenges and cognitive-affective experience. A set of relevant conceptions in order to connect the visual art practice with contemporary psychology of well-being was discovered. New interdisciplinary theoretical and conceptual frameworks were developed.

The principle conceptions of well-being suggested to be applied in research concerning visual art practice are eudaimonic and hedonic well-being as psychological constructs concerning especially the studies of activities. The new, arts-driven conceptual framework takes into consideration the theories by Waterman, Huta and colleagues in eudaimonia and hedonia. The framework consists of the following conceptions: environment, arts facilitation, arts participation, art activity, artistic process, and artwork. Several research aspects are discussed.

The results of this study provide relevant theoretical support for a new connection between visual art practice and eudaimonic and hedonic well-being. Eudaimonic well-being may be enhanced through the practice of visual arts if the practice is considered as having value and meaning, opportunities for personal growth, self-expression and the activities and engagement are intrinsically motivated. These notions are conceptualized as the meaningfulness of the visual art practice. Several recommendations for further studies and the execution of visual art workshops are given.

The examination of the use of concepts and the development of new theoretical and conceptual frameworks provides new knowledge to the research of art and design, health and social studies and recreation and leisure studies in general. The results can be utilized also in the higher art and design education.

Keywords: art, visual arts, visual art practice, art activity, arts facilitation, psychological well-being, eudaimonic well-being, flow, meaningfulness, positive psychology, human-centered service design, interdisciplinary research.