Principles of co-creating arts with community

Image of three female performers singing at the Melbourne Summit
  • PDF
  • Literature review

Last updated

6th October 2023

Share this resource

VicHealth's Future Reset program is part of a worldwide effort to make people feel more connected, happier and healthier through art projects co-designed with the local communities. It is based on three core principles – equity, co-design and partnership.

This research provides a foundation for art projects created by communities and with communities that can foster greater connectedness, improve mental wellbeing, and contribute to health equity.


Why community arts matter

  • The power of community-based arts cannot be underestimated, it has the ability to unite people from all walks of life and drive positive change within our social systems.
  • Practicing art with community is a gateway for authentic storytelling- telling stories, old and new, about self and the community.
  • It involves piecing together our culture and history to better understand ourselves and make our communities stronger and more connected.

Great art projects created with communities have these three founding principles

  • Communality: spaces and places where shared creative experiences bring people together, fostering a sense of belonging, identity, and mutual support, despite differences.
  • Relationality: Building caring and trustworthy relationships that are intentional and reciprocal to connect with the community.
  • Critical reflexivity: How understanding our role in the system along with being able to reflect on our own actions enables us to recognise our influence in shared spaces and promote equity.

What does it take to produce art programs that create connected communities and enable positive social change?

  • Create Safer Spaces and Healing Spaces: Establish safer spaces and healing spaces where people from diverse backgrounds can gather, share their cultures and experiences, and build meaningful connections.
  • Nurture systems thinking: Support participants to share their lived experiences and foster their understanding of how policies, structures, and systems impact their daily lives.
  • Amplifying voices for equity: Create and promote opportunities for communities that face systemic barriers to good health and wellbeing to tell their stories of resilience, resistance and advocacy.

Critical Approaches To Community Arts: in conversation with emerging creative leaders

Watch the full hour conversation here.

Special thanks to: 

  • Mariam Koslay: VicHealth Future Reset Youth Summit Committee Member, journalist & advocate.
  • Nickila DeSilva: Associate Producer, Next Wave  
  • Christopher Sonn: PhD, Deputy Director Research Training, Research Fellow, Institute of Health and Sport  
  • Ruth Nyaruot Ruach: Future Reset Project Coordinator, Footscray Community Arts  
  • Idil Ali: Youth Worker, Spoken Word Poet and Arts Activist 
  • The Horn African Cafe & Restaurant: for allowing us the space to hold this conversation. 
quote mark

A lot of [my creative practice] is centred and grounded in healing, it's healing myself on generational and on acestral levels, it is the space for me to really discover who I am and who I'm becoming and why I'm having these, I guess, desires to be this person.

Ruth, Future Reset Project Coordinator, Footscray Community Arts
quote mark
quote mark

It’s changing some of the ways the institution is working. I want to bring my community in, and I want them to be able to continue to use this space safely, well after I leave.

Idil Ali, Youth Worker, Spoken Word Poet and Arts Activist
quote mark

In Conversation: podcast series


  1. Haiven, M. & Khasnabish, A. (2014). The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity. 

  2. Thomas, R. E., & Rappaport, J. (1996). Art as community narrative: A resource for social change. In M. B. Lykes, A. Banuazizi, R. Liem, & M. Morris (Eds.), Myths about the powerless: Contesting social inequalities (pp. 317-336). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.