As a short-term visitor in Christchurch, New Zealand (2 weeks) focusing on community health, some of the biggest bright spots in the midst of the devastation come from the art world. Creativity is an important component of resiliency, whether for an individual, a group, an organization, or for an entire community. I’m convinced that creativity is an important component of overall health and well-being.
Stumbling around amidst the rubble of Christchurch’s central business district–now called the Red Zone– I thought I was seeing a mirage when I looked up and saw this face smiling at me from an intact building. It is part of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waimhetu At Artbox, built out of temporary modular boxes resembling short shipping crates. They are bright and shiny and oh so inviting. Inside, they have a way cool sound/visual installation: Bodytok Quintet. It consists of four large flatscreens scattered around the room. They each show different loops of a variety of New Zealanders all ‘talking’ with their bodies–making noises with various body parts. The displays are interactive in that they only start when you approach them, and the closer you get the faster they go. It is simultaneously engaging and thought-provoking. Definitely a bright spot in Christchurch’s recovery process. For me, the Artbox was a much more inviting place than the much talked about Re:Start shopping mall nearby. Retail, commerce and all of that are important for the overall health of a community, but I think art trumps shopping malls.
We had a chance to meet with folks from the ‘public good research program’ Resilient Organizations based at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Their group is doing some interesting applied research about what contributes to organizational resiliency through crises such as the local earthquakes. Their two (free/online) resources, Shut Happens: A Resilience Guide for Small Businesses and Resilience Within: A Short Guide to Resilience for NGOs are worth a look. They have found that the main components of organizational resiliency include: 1) good leadership, 2) social capital/networks, 3) situational awareness, and 4) capacity for experiential learning (including a culture of creativity and controlled risk taking). Good guidance for U.S. health care organizations–including smaller community-based programs–having to adapt to rapid changes in the health care environment.