Restless Dance Theatre. Photo by Kelly Carpenter

Wire #18: Arts in Health: New Opportunities for Collaboration

Tue 12 July 2022

Could hospitals and healthcare providers be opportunities for creative collaboration, and the commissioning and presentation of performance works? It’s increasingly recognised that participation in arts and culture leads to positive impacts in mental and physical health. National and international research sources demonstrate benefits for individuals and communities, in both clinical and wellbeing settings. What may not be as widely understood, however,  is the untapped potential for performing artists in healthcare contexts.

In this conversation we will hear from artists, producers and academics working in this space, outlining the skills and experience that are necessary and that can be developed, encouraging artists to consider the significant and meaningful human impact that can be made.

Our panel of speakers is Bebe Backhouse, Stacey Baldwin, Dr Tully Barnett, Linda Jackson and Michelle Ryan, facilitated by Priya Pavri.


Bebe Backhouse
Hailing from the Kimberley region of north-Western Australia, Bebe Backhouse is a descendant of the Bardi Jawi people, and has called Narrm (Melbourne) home for ten years. Beginning his creative practice as a classical pianist and composer, Bebe was awarded a West Australian Youth Award at twenty-one for his work as a music teacher to young Indigenous people. He later made a name for himself as a creative producer and director of youth theatre, festivals, and public art projects across Australia, including international dance and theatre projects in New Zealand, France and Belgium. While holding senior positions at leading public arts organisations in Melbourne, Bebe successfully fostered many artistic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives to showcase their work in mainstream platforms, allowing Traditional Culture to thrive in the public realm. A leader in designing and delivering high-profile programs and strategic projects for Australia’s diverse communities, Bebe is a frequent commentator on the arts and culture community. Holding cultural integrity at the forefront, he has in-depth experience in stakeholder management and organisational leadership, with a passion for advocacy, advancement, and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. After being published in the Anita Heiss anthology Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, Bebe continues to share his life experiences through his writing, with the hope of enabling connection and inspiration. Bebe’s debut solo publication, More Than These Bones, is due to be published in 2022.

Stacey Baldwin
With over a decade of diverse arts management experience, vibrant enthusiasm and a passion for the arts, Stacey Baldwin was appointed as Manager of Arts in Health at Flinders Medical Centre in late 2021. Stacey is an industry recognised leader in the arts sector with 15 years’ experience working with festivals, non-profit organisations and independent artists. She has a successful track record in fundraising, strategic planning, business and financial management. Prior to working with Arts in Health, Stacey was the General Manager/Executive Producer at Slingsby where she helped transform the company to be highly agile and sought after in an ever-changing environment. In 2020 Stacey graduated from the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program.

Dr Tully Barnett
Tully is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Industries in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University, and Director of its Assemblage Centre for Creative Arts. She is a Chief Investigator for the ARC Linkage project Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture  looking at ways of understanding the value of arts and culture beyond econometrics. She is a co-author of What Matters: Talking Value in Australian Culture (2018). She is a member of the Flinders University Arts in Health Alliance looking at the history and future of the relationship between arts practice and health.

Linda Jackson
Linda serves as Director, Arts in Health, for The MetroHealth System in Cleveland, Ohio. She leads its nationally recognised Center for Arts in Health where she oversees the integration of the visual, performing and therapeutic arts in MetroHealth’s hospitals, clinics, schools and neighbourhoods for the benefit of patients, families, caregivers and greater community. Linda joined MetroHealth in 2014 and brings 40 years of experience as a performing artist and arts administrator to her role. She previously served as Assistant Director of Community Engagement and Education at Playhouse Square, the nation’s second largest performing arts centre. As an artist, she was a member of Cleveland Ballet for 17 years, dancing principal roles with company and eventually serving as a member of the artistic staff and the faculty of its school. Along with two colleagues from MetroHealth’s School Health Program, Linda is the cofounder of the SAFE (Students Are Free to Express) Project, an award winning urban, arts-based, psychologically informed primary prevention curriculum. She is a member of the National Organisation for Arts in Health, and currently serves as co-chair of their national conference committee.  She is also proud to serve on the Board of Directors for New York City’s acclaimed Trusty Sidekick Theater Company.

Michelle Ryan
Michelle is Artistic Director at Restless Dance Theatre, and has enjoyed a career that has spanned over 30 years in the arts. Michelle joined Meryl Tankard in Canberra and Adelaide as part of Meryl Tankard’s Australian Dance Theatre for seven and half years, followed by projects in Europe as Tankard’s assistant. Michelle was also a founding member of Splintergroup and worked at Dancenorth for five years in various capacities. Michelle returned to performing in 2011 as a guest artist for Alain Platel’s Out of Context for Pina by Les Ballet C de la B. followed by Take Up Thy Bed and Walk by Gaelle Mellis in 2012. She performed in London at the Unlimited Festival, at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and the Adelaide Festival Centre in Torque Show’s Intimacy. The production won the 2015 Australian Dance Award for Independent Dance, and Michelle was awarded the Adelaide Critics Circle Award for her performance. Michelle also worked with Meryl Tankard and Hedone Productions on the multi award winning film Michelle’s Story, directed by Meryl Tankard which premiered at the 2015 Adelaide Film Festival and won the People’s Choice Award for Best Short Film and the 2016 Australian Dance Award for Best Film. The film was screened on ABC TV in March 2016. Michelle was appointed Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre in 2013 and has created numerous works for the company including Intimate SpaceSeeing Through Darkness and Guttered. The major works for the company have been presented in festivals both nationally and internationally to critical acclaim. Michelle celebrates diversity in all elements of her work. In 2015 Michelle was inducted into the South Australian Woman’s Honour Roll. Michelle was the recipient of the 2020 Australia Council for the Arts Dance Award.

Priya Pavri – Panel Facilitator
Priya is an independent curator currently based on the unceded land of the Kulin Nations. She has a history of growing community projects and organisations through unique and creative endeavours and is committed to seeking alternative models of working with community that challenge existing leadership and governance structures. Informed by a background in Law and Arts, she has lead community projects in the not- for- profit and government sector in urban and remote Australia, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Priya is currently co-director of Arts Gen and board member of Bus Projects and ActNow Theatre.