Recapping RENEW 2024

Last week, professionals from across the arts, science, and wellness sectors came together for RENEW 2024, the one-day community conference on arts, neuroscience, and social wellness convened by the City of LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs and CNM.

More than 150 attendees gathered at the California Endowment to discuss innovative approaches and collaborative solutions to enhance individual and societal health. Between panels and presentations, participants experienced firsthand the power of restorative wellness through mindfulness exercises including breathing, coloring, and sound bath activities.

Several common themes emerged, including:

Arts, culture, and social well-being practices facilitate positive community outcomes.

CNM’s Efrain Escobedo opened the conference with remarks celebrating nonprofits as vehicles for arts, culture, and wellness. “Art is the one thing that can’t get dispossessed. It’s the ability to create and imagine things. Art is the expression of emotions – the spirit – it’s social issues meets economic issues meets justice issues.”

The keynote speaker, USC’s Dr. Assal Habibi, shared the results of a multi-year longitudinal study. Her research followed a group of children and measured the effects of musical training on their linguistic and cognitive skills. It showed the many ways that music affects our brains and lives, providing useful insights for education and healthcare.

Support and sustainability are crucial to ensuring arts professionals’ health and well-being.

Moderated by Therapy for Adults’ Steven Reigns and including Limbic Lounge’s Jessica Edelstein, Entertainment Community Fund’s Keith McNutt, and American Art Therapy Association’s Nadia Paredes, the first panel addressed the subjects of self-care and stability. Panelists emphasized the need for recognition of art professions as a sustainable livelihood. By reframing self-care, redefining the role of art, and nurturing environments where creativity can flourish, artists and their communities can truly thrive.

Art builds resilience as a medium of expression, transformation, and connection.

Offering more perspectives, Arts and Healing Initiative’s Ping Ho, UCLA’s Dr. Marco Iacoboni, and Native Development Network’s Joseph Quintana explored the intersection of arts, culture, and wellness in a Three Perspectives on Social Wellness panel, moderated by Lishaun Francis of Children Now. Joseph Quintana spoke about the disparities that Native Americans face and how native voices and experiences can be channeled through art, while Dr. Iacoboni talked about how art can help people overcome barriers and build connections.

Ping Ho highlighted art’s incorporation into the mental health profession: “The arts provide us with the opportunity to develop more collectively oriented, co-created support that honors cultural values and practices.”

The insights and discussions from RENEW 2024 highlighted the transformative power of the arts in enhancing well-being. By fostering resilience, advocating for supportive policies, and promoting inclusive access to the arts, vibrant communities where wellness and creativity thrive are possible.

To learn more about the conference, visit the RENEW 2024 event page for presenters or see a list of participating organizations. Visit the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs site for additional resources.

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