UCL Grand Challenges


New research dynamics between the arts, health and therapy

A cross-disciplinary project connecting academics from arts in health and arts therapies research to create new practices with co-production, agency, voice, social justice and critical theory.

Psychotherapist and Patient drawing as arts therapy

1 September 2022


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2022-23
Amount awarded: £4,544


  • Professor Phil Jones, Department of Learning and Leadership, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society (IOE)
  • Professor Ama de-Graft Aikins, UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies 
  • Dr Deborah Padfield, Slade School of Fine Art

In collaboration with Arts + Health @ New York University, a new seminar series was formed which encouraged an international exchange of recent and developing thinking, research and practice concerning the disciplines of the arts; the arts in health; arts therapy; health; psychology, psychotherapy, and cultural studies. The series was built on relationships between academia and organisations involved, such as hospitals, health centres, social care provision and schools. The series explored the experiences of such organisations and related health policies, well-being provision, how arts, well-being and therapy are offered, and policies and practices which affect service-user / participant agency, voice, co-production, intersectionality, and social exclusion. The series also looked at critical theory and how it connects to the disciplines. 

Each international partner hosted one of the seminars, which discussed several questions:

  • What are ‘agency’ and ‘voice’? 
  • What is equity? 
  • What constitutes care? 
  • How do these relate to those participating in the arts in health or well-being contexts and therapy? 
  • What are different discoveries and practices in different countries? 

The academic insights addressed the current social issues concerning how co-production between users of and participants in health services and professionals in the arts, in health and art therapists can work together to better produce provision that more effectively meets the needs and demands of those using these services. Each seminar has developed collaborations with professionals and participants in education and third-sector organisers in Australia, Chile, Finland, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, UAE, the UK, and the USA.