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Practitioner Profile - Neal Price

15 August 2016

Queensland Arts and Health Leadership Group Chairperson Neal Price is in the hot seat this month - answering our questions about his career, leadership and the challenges of working in arts and health.  

Question 1: What is your current role in Arts and Health?

I work as a freelance Arts worker and engage mostly in Mental Health and Creative Ageing projects.

Question 2: How long have you worked in the Arts and Health Sector?

Since 1989 – My first Art and Health involvement was with Access Arts in developing the SPECA Festival at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane with Richard Benge (Now CEO of Arts Access Aotearoa NZ). I met Sally Marsden and Maria Fillipow who were working in Arts and Health in Melbourne. Sally was working on The ‘Sails’ Project in a palliative care hospital and Maria was working at Larundal Psychiatric Hospital.

Question 3. What got you into this area of practice?

I was working as a Psychiatric Nurse and I had a background in Fine Art. I went to a dinner party and someone mentioned a new organization that worked with people with disability and arts. I thought the idea was brilliant and I contacted Access Arts. I started teaching drawing and writing classes in the hospital – With support from Access Arts, this lead to the first non-arts funded Artist in Residence program in Queensland, which is still running 27 years latter.

Question 4. What training have you done that has supported your arts and health work?

I have a BA of Arts Administration – this allowed me to understand the management of a small to medium Arts Company – I had trained as a nurse so had a comprehensive understanding of Healthcare, Disability, Mental Health and Aged Care. I had a Fine Arts Diploma and Bachelor in Fine art so I understood the Arts Sector (visual arts). I had experience of being a Ceramics and Drama teacher. With the concept of Arts and Health all my skills came together.

Question 5. What do you think is the best thing about delivering arts projects that support the health of people and communities?

I have always been in awe of the transformative power of the arts. When people connect to their creativity wonderful things happen. People become empowered and learn to make creative decisions about themselves and their lives. I especially like how arts and cultural activity can act as a change agent for institutional environments.  It’s a very important indicator for the ‘health’ of a healthcare agency when a community gets involved in the dynamics of health care.

Question 6. What is the biggest challenge when working in arts and health?

Attitudinal barriers! One always needs to find the right champions. People only know what they know – bringing something new into a healthcare environment can sometimes be seen as creating uncertainty. These environments are highly regulated. It’s great we now have experienced practitioners who can manage the inclusion of the arts into healthcare as a feature of good quality healthcare. 

I once was asked to do a project with babies and parents in palliative care situations. I found that to be very difficult and could have done with support, which in those days wasn’t available. I know some of the early clowns working in the Children’s Hospital experienced similar issues so talking together helped work through loss and grief.

Question 7. You are the Chairperson of our Arts and Health Leadership Group in Queensland, what do you think are the three most important skills for a good leader to have?

  • Being a good listener
  • Valuing other peoples ideas
  • Having a strong vision for the work.

Question 8. What has been your most rewarding moment working in Arts and Health?

Woking with Richard Benge on the Aids Mobilization ‘Beacons of Hope’ project in Wellington 1996. This was the first tri cultural project I had worked on and taught me much about respect for indigenous and other cultures. I returned to Brisbane and held a Mental Health fire event in the hospital grounds in the middle of a state fire ban (with approvals). I gained the experience and confidence to do it.  I received a small $800 Professional Development grant from Arts Queensland and it gave me the experience to do bigger and better things in Arts and Health.

Question 9. If you had $100k to spend on an Arts and Health project in Queensland right now - what would you do?

As time goes by, we are loosing some really important stories from our seniors. I would make a suite of digital stories across several nursing homes capturing many stories of people’s achievements, experience of national events, bushfires, floods and transformational moments. This would help build a culture of storytelling across a number of nursing homes and residential villages. I have a great interest in Creative Ageing work.