2010 – 2013 Last updated: 20 Jul, 2015

Encouraging greater social engagement through arts and cultural activities.

There are so many reasons to encourage greater involvement in the arts, one of the most vital being that it’s good for your health. For this reason we funded three Victorian local governments to embark on a multi-year journey that used arts and cultural activities to increase participation and decrease social isolation within their communities.

This ambitious and innovative program was implemented in Casey, Ballarat and the Central Highlands and Mildura, representing a cross-section of outer-suburban growth corridor, rural/regional and remote municipalities. It concluded in 2013.

LEAP was an evolution of VicHealth’s arts engagement programs, and has helped advance current knowledge about the value to health of strengthening sustainable local networks, organisations and partnerships.

The LEAP projects encouraged thousands of people to try something new and dispelled the common myth that the arts is only for a very select few. The projects involved broad sections of the community, including local businesses, and transformed their communities’ understanding of the value of art and local artists.

LEAP projects

Casey Arts Participation Initiative

The Casey Arts Participation Initiative (CAPI) aimed to create a strategic and planned approach to both the delivery of arts services, as well as the development of arts facilities. This was done to increase the opportunities for community members to participate in the arts; and to use arts to strengthen communities.

CAPI helped to deliver many diverse and innovative arts and cultural projects focusing on art forms such as singing, dancing, literature and photography. Arts participation was used to achieve positive health and wellbeing outcomes and decrease social isolation.

In addition to the direct provision of activities, extensive research into the trends in arts development and facilities was undertaken throughout the three-year CAPI project. This confirmed that the arts are an important component of people’s lifestyle.

These outcomes have led to the development of an Arts Development Plan and Arts Facilities Plan which outline Council’s strategic approach to the future provision of art activities in the municipality.

Central Highlands LEAP

The Central Highlands LEAP project, led by the City of Ballarat, involved five local councils working together to establish the Central Highland Arts Network. and improve the link between grassroots and regional arts delivery. It did this through working to identify community assets and structure support at three levels – local skills development; regional partnerships and collaborations; and virtual/information sharing.

Actions included:

  • development of the regional arts network
  • creating a region-wide online resource, Arts Atlas, to serve artists, arts organisations, visitors, and community members
  • providing direct support to a range of arts activities across participating shires
  • sharing resources, information, knowledge and strategies between shires.

The Central Highlands LEAP project improved awareness of and engagement with the arts highlighting a sense of community, participation and involvement. This was particularly evident among community members who experienced social exclusion or isolation.

LEAP Mildura

LEAP Mildura introduced a suite of arts programs across the municipality, geographically Victoria’s largest, to increase arts participation. LEAP Mildura is based on the premise that, by working in communities, listening and steadily building networks and relationships, the arts programs that follow will be more likely to succeed in terms of engagement and sustained capacity building.

Based on this premise, LEAP Mildura aimed to reduce the major barrier of distance and cost through the development of partnerships and the implementation of community based art ‘making’ programs. It also provided accessible facilities and opportunities to talk about, create, make and show art. Finally, LEAP Mildura invested in the professional development of local artists by strengthening networks and providing employment opportunities to ‘lead’ LEAP activities across the community.

Many participants in LEAP Mildura reported an overall increase in social connection saying they now feel not only much more connected with the community in Mildura but also that their involvement in LEAP helped them to become more involved in other community activities. LEAP reduced the sense of art being only for a select few and enabled conversations and activities to occur in the community that hadn’t been possible before.