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International Dialogue at the Heart of Creativity and Arts in Social and Health Fields Master’s Programme

The Master’s degree in Creativity and Arts in Social and Health Fields at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki provides students with competencies to act as developers, innovators, and leaders by focusing on creativity and the arts in various operating environments. It provides the competencies to work in expert positions across social and health sectors, as well as in the field of arts and culture. The programme also encourages students to actively codevelop the field as part of global professional networks, and to create new dialogical networks internationally.

With a focus on internationalisation and phenomenon-based learning, the Creativity and Arts in Social and Health Fields (CRASH) master’s programme welcomed its first cohort of multidisciplinary students at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki in 2021. Its second cohort began their studies in Autumn 2022. The students’ backgrounds and profiles are highly diverse, ranging from event producers, professional artists, arts educators and therapists to social workers, public health nurses, dental hygienists and various types of administrative positions. The year-and-a-half long study programme was created to meet the needs of developing fields of creativity, health, and wellbeing, as well as societal challenges in post-Covid societies, both locally and internationally. The central aim of the programme is to provide students with the professional competencies required to understand and do arts and creativity in rapidly changing and multidisciplinary working environments. To meet this aim, the underlying premise of the CRASH programme is to foster a unique forum for co-creation and togetherness that strengthens the multidisciplinary and international collaboration skills of current and future developers in the fields of arts, health, wellbeing, and creativity.

In practice, CRASH studies are advanced-level and centred on new ways of thinking about the importance of creativity in human life while reconstructing working practices from this perspective. This course of study prioritises community-building and shared commitment along with phenomenon-based learning; instead of having a compartmentalised course-by-course agenda, the aim is for students to develop a holistic understanding of the field across course units. The key focus areas in the studies are creativity and arts activities in the structures of social and health fields as well as multidisciplinary projects and dialogue. The students share and develop their expertise and reconstruct working practices through collaborative work with others and by grounding their projects in research. As part of advancing the quality of the practices in the field, the goals of this programme emphasise the meaningfulness of activities across contexts of health, well-being, and creativity.

Strengthening Well-Being In and Through International Dialogue

International community–building is central to the ethos and goals of CRASH. The CRASH community as a whole is built on and developed through a continuous international dialogue with universities and other scholars, practitioners, and organisations across the globe. Apart from English-language education, a high number of international guest lecturers and workshop leaders take part in the CRASH programme on a regular basis, often repeatedly, so that dialogue is genuinely ongoing. Research-wise, the programme has created strong connections with leading institutions in the field, particularly in the United Kingdom. Through international collaboration, the programme seeks to understand the phenomena involved from multiple perspectives, ranging from macro-level policies and research studies based on ‘big data’ to sharing individual practices and projects, which constitute equally important pieces of social transformation. International collaboration is also advanced by partnership agreements with universities in Europe, as well as with ERASMUS exchange initiatives, which facilitate mutual exchange experiences for students.

In addition to the collaboration that takes place as part of the study units, international dialogue is enhanced through numerous events and gatherings that take place both virtually and in person. One example is the high-profile remote conference ‘Creativity, Arts, and Culture Enhancing Wellbeing—Perspectives on Professional and Interdisciplinary Practices’, which took place on 17 November 2022 in cooperation with the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Moreover, CRASH plays a key role in the fourteen-seminar series, ‘The Spaces Between: Equity, Voice, Agency, and Care Practices Involving the Arts and Arts Therapies’, organised by the University College London and New York University. Locally, CRASH aligns with wider interests in the area of creativity, which is emphasised strategically by the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences; for example, the Landscapes of Possibilities/Mahdollisuuksien maisemia conference held in October 2022. The CRASH students actively participate by creating content for these impactful local and international events.

CRASH studies are designed to combine local and international expertise from different fields to marshal solutions for broader social well-being, while highlighting the fact that even the most sweeping change has its roots at the micro level. By taking advantage of and continuously broadening the international makeup of the programme, the CRASH community establishes a common practical and intellectual ground among professionals who have a strong interest in engaging with the development of professional fields that unite arts, well-being, and creativity.

About the author: Dr Sanna Kivijärvi is a lecturer at the Creativity and Arts in Social and Health Fields master’s programme at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki

Photo: The head of the CRASH program Laura Huhtinen-Hildén presenting together with guest speakers Arto O. Salonen and Anna-Maria Isola at the Landscapes of Possibilities conference in 2022. (Photo: Patrik Pesonen).