Meet the ideas of “The Art of Staying Healthy” grantees!

At the beginning of the summer of 2021 “The Art of Staying Healthy”* programme was launched. The programme aims to empower collaboration between the arts and health sectors and to pilot arts interventions in the health and wellbeing of people and communities in the Northern Dimension area. During the open call we received 56 eligible applications and unique project ideas from ten countries on how arts can foster the well-being of people.  With the help of a selection committee of five experts, 11 projects from seven countries were selected. In this article we are glad to gradually introduce you to all of the grantee ideas.


#1 Panevezys City Municipality Administration’s (Lithuania) project “CREATIVE HOME(less)” (Lithuania) will tackle the complex problem of homelessness. The project is about providing art therapy to Panevezys hostel residents with the objective to to release homeless people’s complexes, to encourage them to reveal themselves and for them to also regain independence and joy of life. Art therapy group sessions will culminate with a final group workshop and a public exhibition opening. The results will be measured by using therapeutics drawings, psychological questionnaires etc. before and after participation. Project’s team believes that usual solutions are not enough for homeless people. A creativity, which encourages the creation that heals and grows us from the inside is vital.

Project partners: Panevezys city municipality, Panevezys Hostel for homeless people and an Art Center.

#2 Meet the “Creatively Feeling: an Artful Approach to Mental Health & Healing”, a project from Latvia! ISSP has teamed up with a certified art therapist from New York Julia Volonts (who is partially based in Latvia) to organise a series of art therapy groups for people with depression/anxiety, using photography and collage. The project closely cooperates with the Riga Stradins University Art Therapy MA programme and Art Theraphy association of Latvia. It will develop methodology for the group intervention and share the results with mental health professionals and the general public through two publications.

“This project brings us one step out of the usual realm of the art world towards exploring photography in context of human wellbeing and mental health, consciously using it as a tool for emotional processing and healing – the role the medium is playing so frequently, albeit in an indirect way. We are also starting new partnerships with the main players of art therapy and mental health care system in Latvia, which is a new universe for us. Hopefully we can develop partnerships that last. “  – Julija Berkovica, Director of ISSP.

Project partners: ISSP, Riga Stradins University Art Therapy MA programme and Art Theraphy association of Latvia.

#3 Meet project “Stimuli” from Germany! Interdisciplinary artist Irene F. Arcas and designer Laetitia Barbu will team up with health experts in an innovative project that aims to foster the practice of soft body movements to release children’s physical pain and stress/anxiety through the use of yoga and meditation. The illustrations printed on daytime care clothes and pyjamas for children, as well as experimentation on work clothes for adult caregivers will be used to help to remember practicing relaxation moves at any time of the day or night, when the need arises. This approach can be used for preventing unhealthy behaviors through the promotion of movements relieving body and soul. It can also be used more specifically for management and treatment of illness by medical experts.

Project partners: Interdisciplinary artist Irene F. Arcas, designer Laetitia Barbu, health experts.

#4 Northern State Medical University’s project “Intergenerational Practices of Art and Fairy Tale Therapy for Improving Mental Health and the Northern Identity” (Russia, project suspended**). Children with borderline mental disorders in Russia are often brought up by one mother with the traditional help of grandparents. Sometimes three generations cohabitate together. The project team will provide intergenerational social and psychological help based on the personalised usage of fine art methods that allow to improve the state of mental health disorders that are difficult to assess using other resources. Due to their non-verbal nature, visual expression allows different generations in the family to rebuild their relationships and use alternative ways of interaction.

The novelty of the project is: development and justification of a new direction of scientific and practical activity – personified intergenerational socio-psychological art therapy which includes elements of fairy tale therapy based on northern identity into intergenerational socio-psychological art therapy.The project will consist of cycles of classes with children and adults on the partner’s bases (including the exhibition named “Artistic Arctic Development”).

Project partners: Northern State Medical University (NSMU) including  Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, University of the Third Age,  Mentally Ill Creativity Museum;  The Museum “Art Culture of the Russian North”; Thule Institute, Oulu University.

#5 Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art project “Let´s sign the art” (Latvia). According to the Latvian Association for the Deaf, Latvian sign language art terminology hasn’t been deliberately developed, while in Latvia there are approximately 2,000 deaf people, 30,000 people with impaired hearing and only 35 sign language interpreters. Together with 3 other organisations, Riboca will research and pilot the methodology of contemporary art mediation for this target group. The project aims to increase the well-being, inclusion and visitor expirience of deaf and hearing impaired people and their families by training sign language interpreters, training art venue staff in basic sign language and improving Latvian sign language art terminology.

Kristīne Ercika: “Imagine! You are on a plane for a second your ears are full of silence. Do you remember that feeling? And imagine now it is your whole life, so now I’m giving you the great opportunity to first time ever be a part of a groundbraking project to help people who are feeling like this all the time find their tools and develop part of language that can incpororate them to be a part of on of the biggest contemporary art exibitions in Baltics. Are you interested?”

Project partners: RIBOCA, Latvian Association of the Deaf, Ēbelmuiža primary school, Apeirons.

#6 Karjeras konsultacijas project “The Beauty of Self-Mercy and Life” (Latvia) 

An ambitious interdisciplinary project team of life-changing and transformation trainer, a photographer and photo artist, a writer and a clinical psyhologist will organise arts activities for the self-help group of cancer patients called  “PAR DZĪVOT” (“Pro Living”).

The projec aims to improve patients’ coping and adaptation to transformations in their life due to cancer, benefit their health and well-being, assisting the management of cancer.

Aleksis Daume is a life-changing and transformation trainer. He manages the programme “Generosity and tenderness – the beauty of self-mercy that you do not want to resist” based on dialogue and storytelling techniques, which help cancer patients to manage crisis and solve problems, build self-confidence and self-belief, discover and present personal mission, define and share personal vision. Mētra Štelmahere, a photographer and photo artist, manages individual photo sessions “The experience of truth and beauty” for cancer patients to help them to build self-esteem, discover their inner sincerity and beauty. Velga Vītola represents the literature and culture sector. She manages the session “Creative writing of life”, which could be a cathartic process for cancer patients, and guides cancer patients to the museum, which enhances their social relationships. Kristīne Maka is a clinical psychologist and trauma therapist. She provides supervision sessions to the partners organising arts activities, as well as contributes to the measurement of the project impact on the health and well-being of cancer patients

Arts activities for cancer patients will include group and individual sessions within unique authors’ programmes:

  • Generosity and tenderness – the beauty of self-mercy that you do not want to resist
  • The experience of truth and beauty
  • Creative writing of life

At the final stage of the project the exhibition of project results based on photo and creative writing sessions will be organised.

Follow the projects story on Instagram:

#7 Danish Cultural Institute’s project “The Art of Mental Health” (Denmark/Russia, project suspended**) 

Danish Cultural Institute in St Petersburg has entered a close partnership with Center for Arts and Mental Health, a multi arts center at Amager Psychiatric Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. Together they aim to promote recovery-oriented art based interventions in mental care and to explore the possibilities for global solutions to the global challenge of rising cases of mental disorders.

The core element of the project is the research programme REWRITALIZE/Art and mental Health (Denmark) aimed at contribution to art-based recovery-oriented interventions in mental health by providing opportunity for creative activities for the service users. By creating an interdisciplinary group of artists and mental health care professionals, the programme helps establishing a mutual understanding between two kinds of professional knowledge that are qualitatively different but considered to have equal worth.

The project also cooperates with the Medical Museion (Denmark), one of the supporters of the REWRITALIZE programme and partner of the Wellcome Trust (UK).

The project will support the mutually beneficial exchange of expertise and ideas between professionals in the arts and culture and mental health care spheres with a series of online meetings and an offline workshop, presentations and information campaign with the Northern Dimension (ND) partners and by preparing a larger programme on the topic for ND area with a feasibility study as a start.

#8 Darni Socialine Raida’s project “Enabling the Integration of People with Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Disorders into Society through the Forum Theatre Methodology” (Lithuania)  

The project aims to provide social workers with tools and methods based on the Forum Theatre methodology that will help them moderate conflict situations between groups. While piloting the methodology, project’s team will work with people with mental disorders and intellectual disabilities that are trying to integrate into Lithuanian local communities, currently rejected by them due to prevalent prejudices.

Darni Socialine raida has teamed up with Clinical psychologist and training facilitator. Together they will organise “Forum Theatre” theory workshop for social workers and applied “Forum Theatre” workshops for community members and people with mental disorders and intelectual disabilities. The activities are designed for the social workers to learn and apply the method and to provide a platform for the groups in conflict to express their concerns safely and respectfully. At the end a final public presentation about the methodology is planned as well.

Besides piloting the methodology, the project also aims to promote diversity and understanding.

#9 Karlstad University “Dance for People with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) project “Understanding its Underlying Mechanisms through Functional MRI” (Sweden) 

In this project Karlstad University has teamed up with Umeå University, Balettakademien Umeå and Balettakademien Stockholm. The partners will evaluate brain-related changes in people with Parkinson’s Disease after completing a dance course.

Commenting on the project, Lois Walton says, “Non-pharmacological interventions have been stated as essential complements to standard treatment for people with Parkinson’s Disease in order to sustain quality of life, psychological health, as well as cognitive and motor abilities. This project goes one step further and assesses if dance can be associated with brain changes that tackle the typical neurodegenerative changes seen in people with Parkinson’s Disease.”

#10 Galerija propaganda project “BETTER”  (Poland) 

The project will produce a series of videos featuring creative individuals who’ve experienced psychotherapy and benefited from it. The interviews will cover their creative process, the reasons why they make art and will map their individual coping strategies. Commenting on the project, Zuzanna Głód says, “Both creating art and interacting with it can be therapeutic, but it’s also good to talk openly about getting professional help. We believe that this content will create a space for co-experience, but can also be a trigger for seeking professional help.”

#11 National Medical Research Centre for Therapy and Preventive Medicine project “Fairy Tales as a Tool for the Formation of Motivation to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle among Primary Schoolchildren” (Russia, project suspended**) 

In this project, the Federal State Institution “National Medical Research Center for Therapy and Preventive Medicine” (under the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation) has teamed up with Vologda Regional Center for Public Health and Medical Prevention and Tver State Medical University. Together they will evaluate the impact of fairy tales written by residents of the Vologda Oblast, which are dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging  7-9 year old primary schoolchildren to adopt and stick to a healthy lifestyle.

*”The Art of Staying Healthy” programme is cofunded by European Union and implemented by Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture – NDPC, NDPHS Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being and EU National Institutes for Culture. 

** The European Union, Iceland and Norway have have suspended until further notice all activities of the Northern Dimension policy which involve Russia. Read more.