This episode of Michigan Minds is part of a special series from University of Michigan Public Engagement & Impact in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research on firearm injury prevention research.
How does art add value to the conversation around firearm injury prevention? Jane Prophet, PhD, associate dean for research at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, joined Michigan Minds for a special series to answer that question and discuss the positive impacts that art and design can foster in communities.
Prophet is a visual artist who has collaborated with scientists for the last 25 years for installations and sculptures, as well as published papers, to address public health issues and societal challenges.
“It’s very exciting for people like myself who work across disciplines, but also that is reflected in the faculty work at Stamps. Stamps has lots of faculty and students who make art and design projects that directly relate to health and wellbeing. When we think about firearm injury prevention, we’re thinking about this as a public health issue,” Prophet says.
She explains that when artists and designers engage with difficult topics, they encourage people to think and come together.
“Some of the artworks are basically healing — how do we come together after some very traumatic experience and heal from that process? And in other ways, it may just be about opening up the conversation. When topics are very polarized, it’s really important to find spaces where we can meet and talk, or even just privately look at something and have a different thought.”
She adds that by making space for contemplation, people may be inspired to consider something from a new perspective and describes a collaborative research project she is a part of at the University of Michigan based on the research of Marc Zimmerman and the ‘busy streets’ theory.
The central idea of the theory is that improving physical environments promotes safety and inspires empowerment. Prophet explains how they brought a team together to map different public artworks to compare where those are to gun crimes statistics.
“When you bring together these different teams, we come up with unexpected ideas and new ways of thinking about a problem, and hopefully steps towards solving it. Because talking is just the beginning. We’ve got to be able to take action that has a positive impact,” Prophet says.
“To make positive change, to reduce firearm injury, we need people with a wide range of opinions engaging with this topic, using all their different skills and expertise from every disciplinary area and every type of community. And that includes art and design.”