The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Black Dog Institute have worked in partnership to present Australia’s first ever mental health focused arts festival, The Big Anxiety. The festival involves more than 60 events across a range of visual arts platforms, runs over six weeks and will appear at arts venues across metropolitan Sydney. The event is based on the idea that the visual arts can identify and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and other mental health issues and is based around five themes: awkward conversations, lived experiences, the NeurodiverseCity, mood experiments and power, politics and institutions.

Given the festival is based on this theory of delivering improved community outcomes, measurement of outcomes is critical. UNSW commissioned Urbis to develop a theory of change for the festival, as well as an evaluation framework, to agree the thresholds for impact and plan for their measurement.

In addition to the framework and a high level evaluation plan, the project also included development of pre and post festival questionnaires and advice on the ethics submission process.

We loved working with UNSW and the Black Dog Institute on this radically different approach to delivering positive mental health outcomes. Measurement is a challenge, but we love a challenge!