Evaluating Arts on Prescription

7 June 2013

One participant on the Milton Keynes Arts for Health Arts on Prescription programme described the course as 'an environment where all worries disappear." We presented our evaluation of the project at a Sharing Day on the 23rd May at which participants, commissioners and referrers to the project gathered to celebrate the successes of the programme. Our evaluation makes use of both quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate that – for participants in this project – introducing art skills and techniques in a safe and sympathetic environment helped to build self-esteem, increase confidence and contribute to improved relationships with others.

MK Arts for Health’s Arts on Prescription has been running since 2011 and Willis Newson were asked to help evaluate it in September 2012. Using data already collected by MK Arts for Health, and by running our own focus groups and interviews with participants and project management, we recently completed a service evaluation of the project. 

As part of the Sharing Day, poet Mark Niel (www.akickinthearts.co.uk) wrote several poems based on what he saw and heard going on. We’d like to share just one with you (keep checking our Facebook page – as we might share more there).


Payne’s grey was my palette
Emphasis on the pain

Form slowly, begins to form
On paper and in real life

Now there’s a window out
Letting fresh air in

Colour starts to seep into the soul,
Sneaks onto the paper

The pictures plot my mood
Each episode brighter than the last 

Lined up, they form my storyboard;
Hints at a happy ending

The impacts of the increased confidence, self-esteem and improved relationships with others reported by these participants include an enhanced sense of personal and mental wellbeing; greater confidence and ability in relation to social integration; and an increased desire to engage in outside activities, including work, volunteering and an ongoing engagement with art. These are achieved because, through the arts on prescription course, the participants saw themselves as engaged with art as a therapeutic tool; it was seen as a ‘different’ kind of therapy, one which changed their perspectives on their life and mental health, and one which encouraged active and self-directed change.

Would you like to know more? Email Research and Evaluation Manager, Dr Karen Gray, on Karen@willisnewson.co.uk if you would like a copy of the evaluation report.