What have you been doing today?
I was woken up bright and early today by my enthusiastic toddler and spent the first couple of hours playing with him and trying to get him to eat his porridge! When I finally managed to sneak off to the office I did a bit of planning for an upcoming evaluation workshop with museums in the UK that will be exploring creative and co-produced evaluation models. In the afternoon I also carried out an interview over Zoom with project managers from a Mayan organisation who are coming to the end of the first phase of a community-based mangrove restoration project in Campeche, Mexico. I’m now just taking a break from checking transcriptions of focus group audios from the same project as part of an initial draft of an evaluation report – It was pretty surreal to be highlighting ‘crocodiles’ as a possible risk factor as the work enters its second phase!
Is that a typical day for you?
Yes and no. Dividing my time between two projects in one day is quite typical for me, as is evaluation-focused work with organisations in both the UK and Mexico (I live and work between the two countries). However, the organisations I collaborate with are almost always based in the arts and heritage sectors and I combine more desk-based work with face-to-face activities that aim to facilitate shared reflection and learning for different groups of people who find themselves working together. I suppose my work with this Mayan NGO, although completely outside of my usual practice field, reflects a specialism that I have recently been developing around evaluation consultancy work for Indigenous-led projects that have a social justice agenda at their core.
When did you start working with culture, health and wellbeing, and how?
As far back as I can remember culture, health and wellbeing have been at the heart of my practice. I am also someone with lived experience of mental ill health and I’ve hugely benefitted from art and creativity (specifically drawing) as a means of managing my depression. While working in the Community Partnerships team at the British Museum I was lucky enough to oversee projects that supported me to see the ways in which participatory learning and creative engagement could contribute to better health and wellbeing. Subsequent professional experiences working in museums and art galleries and with cultural NGOs of all sizes has brought me into contact with the often life-changing work of community-based and grassroots organisations.
It’s clearly more urgent than ever that museums, heritage sites and arts organisations play their part in addressing widening health and wellbeing inequalities. I’m hopeful that building networks across sectors and de-centring and sharing knowledge so that those with lived experience might lead the way will help us to bring about meaningful change even as we resist current and future social, environmental and political crises.
What was the last project you came across that inspired you?
I am incredibly lucky in that I get to find out about brilliant projects both in the Spanish and English-speaking world. It’s also really inspiring to hear about work taking place in the Global South and in my recent role as guest editor for the online arts, culture and heritage journal Culture Caleidoscoop, I have had the privilege of reading and editing articles written by researchers and practitioners from Mexico, Tunisia and Barbados. I’d really recommend that people check out Issue 2, which should be published in the coming weeks. (https://www.culturecaleidoscoop.com/journal)
Siân Rosa Hunter Dodsworth is an evaluator, researcher and educator based in the UK and Mexico. Her collaborations with communities frequently explore the role of artistic, cultural and heritage practice in improving health and wellbeing. Sian is an experienced museum professional and anthropologist, specialising in co-curation and co-production as part of social justice initiatives. She is a founder of Cards on the Table, a game that helps people think and talk critically about working together enabling them to express doubts, fears and hopes in an open way - and maybe become better collaborators as a result (https://www.cardsonthetable.org).