Arts for Mental Health Conference

Inform | Collaborate | Inspire

MAC’s Arts for Mental Health Conference on October 6, 2021 will explore the rationale for, design and implementation of a pilot program that will deliver and expand arts programs to people living with mental health issues in Mississauga.

Mississauga Arts Council successfully applied to the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Seed Grant stream with a proposal to host a conference on the benefits of the Arts on Mental Health and Wellbeing. Highlighting the successful research of programs in Britain, Australia, and Denmark, MAC aims to provide evidence-based research to conference attendees that will lead to a pilot arts for mental health referral program in the Peel region.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, public awareness of the arts benefits to mental health have shifted. As people embraced creativity in lockdown, and turned to the arts to relieve their anxiety about the uncertainties of COVID-19, it has become apparent that it is time to incorporate the arts into existing healthcare treatments.

We are thrilled to renew our efforts. Our Virtual Arts for Mental Health Conference is scheduled for Wednesday, October 6, 2021. The virtual event will have video content and information presentations, and we will encourage networking, discussion, and questions.


Save the Dates:

September 7-9, 2021 – Arts + Mental Health Datathon

The Arts + Mental Health Datathon is a three-day event that runs on September 7-9, 2021 to collect research, resources, and projects that pertain to arts and mental health. Our goal is to collect the data in a central repository and make it available to artists, health care providers, and the public. This data will help inform the conference content and stimulate thoughtful conversation that will be carried through into the Arts for Mental Health Conference.

(Registration will open on August 26, please stay tuned!)

MAC is pleased to partner with Mass Culture to co-present the Arts for Mental Health Conference and pre-conference events.

October 6, 2021 – Arts for Mental Health Conference

The Mississauga Arts Council in partnership with Mass Culture present our virtual Arts for Mental Health Conference on October 6, 2021. This timely conference will bring together artists, medical practitioners, and policy makers to demonstrate the impact and benefits the arts have on the mental well-being of individuals. Highlighting the successful research of programs in Britain, Australia, and Denmark, we aim to provide evidence-based research to conference attendees that would lead to a pilot arts for mental health program in the Peel region.

(Registration for the conference is by invitation only, please check back for more details – coming soon)

The time to deliver for mental health is now…

MAC’s Arts for Mental Health Conference on October 6, 2021 will explore the rationale for, design and implementation of a pilot program that will deliver and expand arts programs to people living with mental health issues in Mississauga.

Our Vision is of a healthy Province, in which effective arts programs and creative experiences are fully integrated into healthcare treatment practices.

Our Mission is to develop a pilot program for efficiently delivering creative experiences to people with moderate mental health problems 

Our Goal is to develop a practical, scalable blueprint for an arts for mental health program in Peel Region  

Our Strategy is to produce an educational Conference for examining the success and capacity of arts programs to provide effective relief to residents suffering anxiety and depression 

The A4MH Virtual Conference guiding principle is the presentation of a business case that examines the cost and benefits of providing Creative Experiences as mental health solutions for residents from moderate anxiety and depression.

Arts for Mental Health Conference Outline

Mississauga Arts Council is working with leaders in the arts and mental health sectors to combine the latest research with program data and participant stories. The Arts for Mental Health Conference will be a one-day virtual event on October 6, 2021. The content will be divided into three multi-media acts.

Act 1 Examining the Benefits – Program Report Videos 

To determine the value of creative experiences that improve mental health for a diverse range of citizens.

Reports: This section will present evidence based evaluations using short video summaries from arts based program operators, detailing beneficial outcomes seen in their clients. 

Testimonials: This section shows video clips of healthcare professionals and programmers sharing their observations on the benefits the arts have on their patients or program participants. Filmed from varied settings, ranging from clinical to community, first person experiencers share the beneficial impacts from participating in music, writing, painting, dancing, and attending creative performances.

Promising Global Trends: Research points to successful innovations in Denmark, Britain, Australia, with evidence in support of Arts 4 Mental Health. This section presents the highlights, research summaries, and evidence-based results noted in these successful programs through short video segments.

Act 2  The Physiology of Creativity – Medical Insights  

To demonstrate the physiological impact the arts have on mental health and how medical practitioners can take advantage of the array of benefits across artistic practices.

Keynote address: Leading medical expert on the specific effects on human mental health of participating with creative experiences.

Health Experts Explain the Science: In video clips, using graphics and commentary, experts describe and explain specific physiological changes in clients, after they have participated in music, writing, painting, dancing, and attending – creative performances. 

Variability of Outcomes: What different benefits, if any, can be expected from the various creative experiences? What are the foreseeable impacts of arts prescriptions on pharmacological practices?

Act 3 Arts 4 Mental Health delivers a Triple Bottom Line 

Costs & Consequences: What are the current costs to society of sick days, treatment costs, and social services costs for treating the outcomes from poor mental health?  Is it sustainable?  What are cost vs. benefits of government supported mental wellness initiatives? Answers will be provided from local cost analysis studies and comparative data from successful arts for health programs in Britain and elsewhere.

Case Study: What arts for mental health programs are available in Peel Region? Engaging videos of current program options & Art of Wellness Documentary by Susan Ksiezopolski. How can creative experiences be added to Peel’s current Link referral/prescription system? For one underserved neighbourhood, what would the pilot program integrating creative pathways to wellbeing look like?  Who could help, who could lead? 

Recommendation from the day serving a Triple Bottom Line! 

Group Composing the draft recommendation: Whereas; Creative programs have profound benefits for mental, physical and emotional health, Creative programs reduce the costs of health care for participants by more than 30%, Creative programs add employment for professional artists with precarious income. We recommend that this pilot Arts for Mental Health program be initiated in Peel Region.

Closing remarks from The Minister of Health


This video was made possible through the generous support of the following sponsors: The Mississauga Arts Council (MAC), Bell Canada and The Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Art of Wellness (Documentary)

“In the midst of such despair in Peel Region during this pandemic, it is inspiring to witness and share with you this new short documentary, exploring local arts programs, that are standing by, ready right now to serve the people who need them most, when the quarantine is finally lifted,” says Susan Ksiezopolski, producer of Art of Wellness – Creative Path to Mental Health.

This Art of Wellness documentary spotlights the important role of the arts and the positive impact that participating in arts-based programming has on our well-being, supporting people with high stress, anxiety, and depression Facing grief at the loss of your loved one, or managing your way through life’s challenges and traumas, can be greatly helped by expressing yourself through the arts. Featured in the Art of Wellness short documentary, are a few organizations that offer arts-based programs supporting mental wellness.


Arts for Mental Health Resources

In 2017, researching the relatively low valuation of artists and their contributions to society, we at Mississauga Arts Council looked into the remarkable economic contributions of the arts (Hill Strategies and others), we were inspired by the enormous popular support for the arts in Ontario, as evidenced in an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for the Ontario government in 2017. But obviously economic value and popular appeal haven’t been enough, we had to find a better story for professional artists, emphasizing their value as a competitive advantage in healthcare cost reduction.

Here and there, we gathered spot news reports of beneficial impacts of – a dance program for neuromuscular illnesses, or painting for stroke recovery, or music programs offering important measurable benefits for just about anything. Encouraging good news stories, noting reduced stress, depression, anxiety, and suicides from participation in creative experiences as participants or as attendees; are well known, in a few circles and understood instinctively by the public, yet with these important accomplishments, artists are still barely sustaining themselves as the best educated poor people in Canada.

We turned to other countries, Denmark for its back to work enabling program using arts experiences and especially we made note of the Creative Inquiry Report to Britain’s Parliament in July 2017. The startling healthcare benefits cited, guided our approach to our Arts for Mental Health Conference.


Arts for Mental Health News

Mississauga Arts Council and Mass Culture partner to launch the first Arts for Mental Health Conference in Canada

MAC and MassCulture are partnering to launch the Arts For Mental Health Conference on October 6th, 2021. It will explore the rationale for, design and implementation of a pilot program that will deliv…

Ontario Brain Institute: How dancing can boost cognitive health

TVO.org speaks with Sarah Robichaud of Dancing With Parkinson’s about how physical exercise can help the body — and the brain. Interview by Daniel Kitts.

Art of Wellness Documentary Screening

MAC announces The Art of Wellness Documentary Screening, funded by MAC, Bell Canada and The Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Rewiring our brains to understand how art promotes mental health

Published in Mississauga News on April 8, 2021 Christine Long was walking across a parking lot when, “I felt something rip in my brain.” She was in hospital three days while doctors tried to figure ou…

Brain Beat Dance combines dance, storytelling and conversation to stimulate brain health in GTA seniors

Published in The Star on February 3, 2020 May Wong is leading her group of seniors through an apple-picking excursion. Except she’s not in an orchard, she’s in a brightly lit conference room overlooki…

Announcing the Art of Wellness Initiative

MAC wishes to catalogue the ways in which creative experiences help to improve mental wellbeing in Peel through the Art of Wellness Initiative. 

The Case for Music in Times of Loss

Published in The New York Times on May 21, 2020 If we’re going to survive this pandemic we need music, more than ever. There is nothing else that can meet us in our heartbreak, elevate our spirits, mo…

Art helps Mississauga man overcome adversity

Published in Mississauga News on April 4, 2018 Doctors didn’t think he would survive. Christine Long was walking across a parking lot when, “I felt something rip in my brain.” A Mississauga man …


Thank you to our Conference Sponsors:

The Arts for Mental Health Conference is produced by the Mississauga Arts Council and Mass Culture, and supported by the City of Mississauga.