Art Therapy: Healing Arts & Disaster Response

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There was a time when I used to collect holy prayer cards or mass cards.  Most of them came from other collectors or folding religious goods stores out of Amazon or Ebay and the collection numbered well into the 100s. It was a passion.  It took a lot of time.  I had searched for weeks for the proper showcase units and then once I had them up on the wall in my kitchen/dining room, I’d reflect on them daily.  Life moves on, you relocate, you sell stuff, you move again, you forget whatever happened to such and such, and you learn you have to make friends with loss.  My collection?  Gone.

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And loss is a gift because through it you learn value.  In fact, one of the BEST things that ever happened to my family was a devastating household fire in the early 90s in Tampa, Florida.  We lost every single thing and let me tell you, one never forgets that feeling of walking through embers days later.  One never forgets the smell of crispy nothingness.  One has to let go of the military uniform that was burned, or the kids precious toys that went up in smoke, or the photos or books or icons that make up so much of our internal meaning.  You have to make friends with loss, and the sooner you do, the better it’s going to go for you.  I wish someone had been as direct with me, truth hurts and truth heals.

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I live now by choice, much as a minimalist and I’m sure it’s connected to that traumatic experience somehow or maybe the multiple moves I’ve endured.  I’m at a place now where things weigh me down, they clutter my space, they block my vision and this is part of the reason I have to keep so organized, it’s chaos that can feel so uncontrollable and uncertain.  But back to the gifts.  Trauma teaches you steadiness.  Trauma teaches you compassion and empathy.  Trauma teaches you how to go THROUGH.  And that’s what our Art Therapy & Mobile Disaster Response does.  We go THROUGH with YOU, using art as its healing vehicle, its communicative properties when no words will do, its make busy and distract us qualities, its ability to capture a moment in time.  Yes, all of that is good.  All of that helps.  All of that heals.  Art gives us where we were, where we are, and where we’re going.

How It Works

The overall goal of our Mobile Art Therapy Program is to connect a community through art therapy and provide art therapy for those that have no access in times of human or natural disaster.  We especially reach out to marginalized and lower socioeconomic status populations because often resources reach these populations on a slower scale.

We travel in three modes, prevention & education, response, and post-vention & follow-on outreach and provide art therapy programming onsite at partner organizations. Our art therapy unit often consists of our Executive Director, interns and volunteers, and other aide professionals.  Partners include like-minded organizations in need of art therapy  for their clients, patients, students and/or staff members, or general public.   

Depending upon the emergent needs, the space available, and the time and resource elements, we are able to provide individual or group art therapy onsite or off.  

Healing Arts

In recent disasters the number of people whose experience may have left them traumatized is far larger than the number of fatalities. Our Healing Arts Program focuses on the most vulnerable.  People who survive disasters must be allowed to be the central actors in rebuilding communities.

You can support the ICAF’s current programs: Haiti Healing Arts Program and the Chile Healing Arts Program.