5 Reasons Why Art!

February 26, 2021

We over here at AND nerd out hard about implementation science. It is how we bridge the gap between evidence (what we know) and practice (what we do). It seems simple enough. But, there is a looooooong lag time between gathering info and transforming systems. For example, it takes on average 12 years for health research to influence health care. That is equivalent to a kid in grade seven! 


We are curious about how to close the gap. Our hypothesis? Use art! Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Art is subjective. 


Researchers and evaluators often use the S-word to dismiss data. But, evidence is never neutral. What do we know? Who decides what is worth knowing? How is information used? Who benefits? The answers to these questions are not neutral. Nor do they reflect or result in "objective" data. 


Because art is soooo subjective, it invites us to slow down. And to thinking critically about who is doing and saying what and for why.


Art enables critical thinking necessary to spark change.

woman silhouette describing a lightbulb and thinking about the blueprints for building a lightbulb

2. Art fosters conversation.

It is impossible to be critical alone or from inside an echo chamber. We need to be challenged by many perspectives to think, listen, and act differently. 

The process of art-making and engaging with finished pieces:

  1. validate many perspectives and forms of wisdom

  2. invite discussion without ruling on a winning and losing perspective

  3. encourages people to recognize their own echo chambers 


In conversation, we can reflect on and change who has a say, who decides, and what actions are taken (and by whom). This is a practice of equity. 


Art can centre equity in evidence, decisions, and (transformed) practices. 

a group of people in a hot air balloon discussing different subjects

3. Drawing can uncover implicit biases in fun and inviting ways.


As a conversational tool, drawing is great! It breaks the ice and levels the playing field, because everyone makes silly things. And, drawing invites reflection, because everyone surprises themselves. 


In facilitated exercises, we invite doodlers reflect on deeply held assumptions. We get to dive deeper in conversations because, "can you tell me about the colours you used?" is safer than, "what are you biased about?" 


Surprise and humility are awesome ingredients for conversation and change. 

doodles with a pink blob, stick figure person, and tree with text saying, "neutral?"

4.  Theatre effectively builds empathy for diverse perspectives.


Have you ever seen a performance and felt second-hand embarrassment? Have you been moved to laugh out loud, cry, or whisper something to the person next to you? Unlike filmed public service announcements and formal Q&As with expert panels, theatre fosters intimacy on and off stage.


Shared experiences make it easier to translate important information into digestible ideas. Then, post-show activities that capitalize on audience energy can help transform those experiences and ideas into co-designed solutions.

audience at a theatre peformance with thinking bubbles

5. Myth-busting, makes it is easier to see how art can be helpful.


  1. You do not need to be an artist to use or participate in arts-based methods. The right questions and activities make arts relevant and accessible. 

  2. Art does not answer all questions. It is better to not use art, than to force it into the wrong question or project. 

  3. Arts-based projects can be rigorous. There are standards for and ways of evaluating everything. Art-making for evidence's sake (rather than for art's sake) requires thoughtful questions, well-thought-out approaches, and metrics of accountability. 

a paint pallet and brush and a stamp saying, "myth"

Last thoughts.


Evidence is only as diverse and insightful as the people engaged and the ideas solicited. If we ask the same people the same questions, we aren't going change much. We can disrupt status quo practices of generating evidence and influencing practice by changing the conversation.  Arts-based methods allow us to introduce new questions (and new ways of asking), engage and centre folks who we have previously excluded (intentionally or unintentionally), and spark innovative solutions.