YBCA and Blue Shield — Art and Health

At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), we are driven by the belief that art and creativity are essential to healthy lives and communities. Every day, we work with artists who are tapping into the wonder, creativity, and imagination that fuels our perception of what is possible. This sense of possibility and potential is the foundation of our well-being.

There is growing evidence that art, creativity, and culture have measurable impacts on individual and community health. The University of Florida Center for Arts and Medicine has partnered with ArtPlace America to launch a new national initiative called Creating Healthy Communities: Arts + Public Health in America to explore and map a national agenda that realizes the potential in intersecting health, arts, and culture to build healthier communities across the country. A recent article by Jamie Hand and Tasha Golden in the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development Innovation Review identifies several domains where arts and cultural strategies have a unique and positive impact on mental health outcomes. In Montreal, doctors who are members of Médecins francophones du Canada are partnering with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to prescribe free museum visits to compliment more traditional treatments. In the UK a recent study found that 66% of doctors polled believe the arts have a positive role to play in the prevention of illness. Additionally, the All-Party Parliamentary Group report on health and wellness illustrates a comprehensive evidence and specific examples that demonstrate the positive impact of the arts on well-being.

Source: Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health, and Wellbeing Inquiry Report
There is growing evidence that art, creativity, and culture have measurable impacts on individual and community health.

Across the US, there are numerous cases of health care providers who are integrating art into their practice including Medicaid’s PACE program (a program of inclusive care for the elderly) that includes art classes in a comprehensive approach to delivering medical and social services to independent seniors who are living with complicated needs. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center ranked art therapy as one of the top five most effective treatments for veterans who are living with traumatic brain injury. The National Intrepid Center for Excellence, Walter Reed’s outpatient clinic, is one of 11 sites across the country that host a program called Creative Forces which is an arts therapy initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to employ creative arts therapy to treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. These are just a few of countless examples or art strategies that are having transformative impact.

To amplify our commitment to raising awareness of the relationship between art and healthy outcomes, we are thrilled to announce a new multi-year partnership with Blue Shield of California, a not-for-profit health plan and champion of lifestyle medicine which focuses on pillars of health including emotional resiliency. Together, we will undertake and support projects that link engagement with the arts and improved health and wellbeing in individuals and communities. YBCA and Blue Shield will introduce artist fellowships, commissioned programs, and annual community events featuring artists and thought-leaders at the forefront of the growing conversation about art and health.

YBCA and Blue Shield will introduce artist fellowships, commissioned programs, and annual community events featuring artists and thought-leaders at the forefront of the growing conversation about art and health.

This partnership will allow YBCA to build on work that we have undertaken in recent years that is focused on upstream strategies that position art and creativity as an essential early investment in people, neighborhoods, and communities whose social determinants — the structural conditions in which people are born, live, work, and age — put them at high risk for poor health outcomes.

YBCA Youth Fellows at work with Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition; Bessie Carmichael Elementary School students celebrate the People’s Garden community garden. (Photos: Tommy Lau)

For example, YBCA has been working with the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition to increase awareness of their work transforming liquor stores in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood into places that carry fresh produce. In collaboration with teaching artists and neighborhood residents, YBCA has worked to replace existing neon signs advertising alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy foods with new neon signs advertising the fresh fruits and vegetables now sold at the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition’s converted stores.

Additionally, we have collaborated with artists, teachers, and students at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School to design colorful signage that boldly identify a community garden producing herbs and vegetables in a neighborhood known as a food desert. For YBCA, these projects focus on art-driven strategies that empower young people to address social, economic, and environmental inequities through early-stage interventions that can have lifelong impact.


“I passionately believe by practicing and performing art we can commune and heal with people and spirits to express and share our thoughts and ideas on vital issues such as identity, politics, nature and spirituality.” — Dohee Lee, award-winning Bay Area performer & educator

To celebrate, YBCA and Blue Shield will hold a free public launch event on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. The free event will feature a special performance from Dohee Lee, a South Korean artist who combines dance, music, percussion, and vocals inspired by her inquiries into art and wellness; presentations from health practitioners incorporating art in their practice; and more!