Christopher Bailey presents the Jameel Arts & Health Lab to the National Endowment for the Arts
Christopher Bailey, founding co-director of the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, addressed a meeting convened by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in Washington, DC, on 30 January 2024.
I've been asked to speak about arts and health, around the world, in three minutes. Don't laugh, you're taking away from my time.
I could talk about the technical assistance that the NEA has requested from WHO to look at measurement frameworks for the health benefits of the arts to help support the programmes that Chair [Maria Rosario] Jackson has described... but there's no time.
I could talk about the Jameel Arts & Health Lab, a network of affiliated research centres around the world that is looking at the evidence base for the health benefits of the arts as a health behaviour, just like nutrition and exercise; and looking at arts-based interventions and their scalability to help support underserved populations; and the foundational science underneath that: the neurology, the biochemistry of why we might reasonably say it has a health benefit.
As an example, the auditory senses that have been found in the temporal lobe and what that might mean in terms of the easing of human suffering... but there's no time.
I could talk about our work in the Global South and indigenous communities and how we've upended the development paradigm, where it is no longer an assumed state of support and knowledge, because the Global South has not forgotten what we are so cleverly rediscovering right now – including the healing power of the non-linear conception of time... but there's no time for that.
I could talk about my own journey into blindness, and how when I was struck blind it shattered my own sense of time, and my sense of the past became this dark ocean of grief for what I lost in the visual world.
And my sense of the future became this rolling storm on the horizon, filled with dread and anxiety for what I was going to face in this dark world.
And yet, through creative expression, the sound of the word, I was able to find a pathway whereby I could once again luxuriate in the present moment.
Just as you willingly close your eyes to better savour a glass of red wine, just as you willingly close your eyes to better embody a beautiful piece of music, just as you willingly close your eyes to trace the gentle slope of a lover's forearm, so too do I accept the closing of my eyes to better share this moment with you.
Because the arts, in the arts, there is no time.