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Art and public health: Wellbeing, social critique and communication

Friday 24 February 2017

Featuring Distinguished Professor of Fine Art, Anne Noble, the 2016 recipient of the Walters Prize, Shannon Te Ao, and cartoon artist Toby Morris, this day will introduce multiple ways in which art and public health intersect, including the role of public art in wellbeing, the use of art to discuss or disseminate public health issues, and the ways in which art and artists can create space for thinking about social and environmental change. It will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the creative arts and their role as a public good, and to anyone who is interested in creative ways to engage the public.

Art has a unique power to surprise, provoke, and communicate, often leading us to cast a ‘critical eye’ on social and cultural norms. Like Public Health, art can play an important role in commenting on complex social and environmental issues like climate change and social inequality.


Topics covered  

1. Public Health and Art in dialogue
2. Communication and dissemination: Starting a conversation
3. The public sphere: public art and the public good
4. Activist and political art: dispossession, society, and environment

Style of course

Symposium – Multi-speaker presentations and interactive panel discussion in lecture theatre setting.

Who should attend?  

This course is aimed at starting a productive conversation between artists, curators, public officials such as those working for local or central government who are interested in what role art can play in public space, members of civic society or business who are interested in the interplay between art and society, public health practitioners or academics who wish to think more broadly about how to reach people, and people who are interested in how art can be a motivator of social change.

By the end of this course participants should have the knowledge/skills to understand the primary links between art and public health, understand the key debates around the social good of art in public spaces, have some ideas about how art and public health can work together to reach more people, and think about where art might be able to say what science can’t.

Draft timetable

Time Session Presenter(s)
8:30am Registration
9am Public health & Art in dialogue Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman (University of Otago), Professor Anne Noble (Massey University)
10:30am Morning tea
11am Communication and dissemination: Starting a conversation Professor Nick Wilson (Otago University), Russell Duncan (Health Promotion Agency), Toby Morris (illustrator and comic artist) and others.
12:30pm Lunch break
1:30pm The public sphere: public art and the public good Sam Kebbell (Kebbell Daish Architects), Sophie Jerram (Common Ground and Letting Space). Facilitated by Professor Michael Baker
3pm Afternoon tea
3:30pm Activist and political art: dispossession, society, and environment Shannon Te Ao, Anne Noble, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila. Facilitated by Simon Bowden (The Arts Foundation)
5pm Finish

Teaching staff  

  • Philippa Howden-Chapman is Programme Director of He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. Her extensive research is world-leading, resulting in the awarding of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2014 to her research group.
  • Anne Noble is one of New Zealand’s most respected contemporary artists. The recipient of a laureate award in 2009 for her contribution to the visual arts in New Zealand, Anne Noble is Professor of Fine Arts at Massey University. Her work engages with contemporary environmental issues and our relationship to land and place. She produces books and installations that incorporate both still and moving images. Awarded a New Zealand Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2001 and a US National Science Foundation Polar Arts Fellowship in 2008 she has made three visits to Antarctica and completed multiple Antarctic book and exhibition projects including Ice Blink (2011), The Last Road (2014), and Whiteout Whitenoise (forthcoming). Concerned with how photography shapes the interior imaginary she has examined the histories of Antarctic representation and explored new ways to see and imagine a place that most people only encounter second-hand through the photographic image. Her recent projects are concerned with creating affective responses to contemporary environmental challenges, and generating new kinds of public dialogue between artists, scientists, activists and other communities of engagement within contemporary art contexts. A beekeeper herself, she has developed a number of projects concerned with the decline of the honey bee that employ both antique photographic and scientific imaging technologies. Most recently she has incorporated live working colonies of bees in public art works and educational initiatives for schools, concerned with developing ecological intelligence and the importance of environmental stewardship.
  • Professor Nick Wilson co-directs BODE3, a large HRC research programme that examines the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of public health interventions. Nick is a prolific researcher with wide ranging expertise and interests, including the use of film to teach public health issues.
  • Sam Kebbell is co-founder and Director of KebbellDaish in Wellington. In addition to his work in practice, Sam is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington. Sam is a currently finishing his PhD at RMIT University in Melbourne. In 2015 he was an ADAPTr Research Fellow at the University of Westminster in London. He graduated from VUW with a B.Arch (1st class Hons) in 1998 which included an exchange to the Penn State University visual arts program and the Penn State architecture program in Rome. He completed his Masters of Design in History and Theory (Distinction) at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard (Cambridge, USA) in 1999. Sam worked in Boston, New York, and Amsterdam before he returned to practice in Wellington. KebbellDaish has won numerous architectural awards and competitions and several of its projects have been exhibited in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe, and the work continues to be the subject of articles in popular, professional, and academic publications.
  • Sophie Jerram is co-director of public art agency Letting Space and has initiated dozens of discussions, projects and large scale public art projects including the Transitional Economic Zone of Aotearoa (TEZA), the Urban Dream Brokerage, and most recently Common Ground Festival in the Hutt. Having originally trained in business and philosophy, she has kept an active interest in company investment and directorships and was a founding director of Loomio software 2012-14. Sophie was co-founder of climate change and arts based partnership Now Future, bringing artists together with scientists, economists and other rationalists. Recently she has been studying commons-based art practices from Copenhagen University, toward a practice-based PhD. She has formerly worked in government and for the Sustainable Business Network of New Zealand. She is involved in community-led planning and engagement in her local community around the Vogelmorn Bowling Club in Brooklyn Wellington.
  • Michael Baker is a specialist public health physician and professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. He leads a number of research projects focussing on infectious diseases, environmental health, and housing. Michael is Interested in how the creative arts can be used to enhance effective public health communication; how public health themes are represented in documentary and fictional works, including films and novels; how the visual arts and architecture can enhance human wellbeing; and whether good design, by definition, is good public health.
  • Toby Morris is an illustrator, comic artist and designer. These days you might know him as the writer and artist behind the comic series The Pencilsword or his animated editorial cartoons for Radio New Zealand. He is a former member of the band Batrider, former editor and publisher of Officer Pup, former artist and writer of the comic series Pirate Technics, and a current father of two. He drew, published and distributed his first comic at age 13 and since then drawn two books, over twenty comics and worked extensively within the New Zealand music industry, drawing posters and covers for the likes of The Phoenix Foundation, Liam Finn, Beastwars, and A Low Hum.
  • Shannon Te Ao (Ngati Tūwharetoa) is an artist currently based in Wellington, New Zealand. Te Ao’s current artistic enquiry explores performance based practices, written word and moving-image installation. Often drawing from a range literary and filmic material, Te Ao’s recent works implicate physical action, social interaction and poetic sensibility—using these as exploratory devices into various artistic social and political contexts.
    Recent exhibitions include Imagine the Present, St Paul St Gallery, Auckland (2016); From the one I call my own: Susan Te Kahurangi King and Shannon Te Ao City Gallery Wellington (2015); Unstuck in Time, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland (2015) and The 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire curated by Juliana Engberg (2014).
  • Russell Duncan is a marketing practitioner and currently leads a team of social marketers at the Health Promotion Agency. After a successful decade in advertising and commercial marketing he left the “dark side” to develop and implement evidence based marketing campaigns that influence positive behaviour change. Working for a number of organisations both in NZ and the UK he has lead initiatives to reduce food wastage, minimise gambling harm, reduce smoking rates and increase ethical by-standing with the aim of reducing sexual assaults.
  • Simon Bowden has been leading the Arts Foundation since 2002. Simon studied at the Wellington Conservatorium of Music in the late 90s and he is still actively involved in music playing guitar and banjo professionally. His band C.L.Bob, won Jazz album of the year in 2002. Simon has raised over $40 million for the arts in bequests, donations and sponsorships and is an leader in generating philanthropic support for the arts.
  • Kalisolaite 'Uhila: Born in Tonga and raised in New Zealand, performance artist Kalisolaite 'Uhila achieved his Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2010 from Auckland University of Technology, where he has also just completed his Master of Performance & Media Arts. Often drawing inspiration from his heritage and environment, ‘Uhila blends his cultural practice and powerful performance together to highlight his own unique perspective of the world in which he lives. 'Uhila was a finalist for the 2014 Walters' Prize, and has exhibited in New Zealand and internationally.

Course cost and registration

$300 early bird, $400 after 21 December 2016.

A 50% discount is available to full-time students, those unwaged and University of Otago staff.

Register now