Trauma, the Arts, and Resilience


nightskynine-2.jpgIn this post I am going to share some examples of creative expression helping individuals and communities to heal. Before that, however, I would like to introduce an extraordinary organization in Boston that is working on this issue of resilience–how do individuals and communities survive and begin to live again after the traumas of war, natural disasters, and illness.

The Foundation for Art and Healing

“As a public health practitioner, I think that a serious exploration and promotion of creative expression as a way to better put us in touch with ourselves and others–increase resilience even as it increases compassion and empathy–is timely and warranted…not just in Boston but worldwide.” Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH

Dr. Jeremy Nobel, a physician and public health expert in Boston, established the Foundation for Art and Healing. On its website it proclaims that it is “Bridging Science and the Arts to Impact Lives.” It is doing this through three approaches:

1. Exploration: studying the links between creative expression and health;

2. Empowerment: Promoting arts-based solutions for coping with life’s health-related challenges; and

3. Engagement: Sharing stories of hope, healing, and possibility to activate and inspire others.

While my examples in this post do not come from Dr. Nobel’s work, I strongly recommend that you view his website and the work the organization is doing.


“In the difficult conditions that the country is going through, we wanted to give a smile to the people, joy to the children, and show people that the Syrian people love life, love beauty, love creativity.” Moaffak Makhoul, lead artist

10001098_10152090195279032_1389155935_oThe mural made the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world made from recycled materials–broken glass and pottery, bicycle wheels, whatever they could find in the streets was turned to good use. What matters is not its size–although that in itself makes a strong statement–but that a group of artists felt impelled to do something beautiful for the community in a time of daily trauma from the war. The children attending the nearby school love the mural; it adds beauty and hope to their daily lives.


Vrygron, SA Capricorn Elementary Schoo

Vrygrond, SA
Capricorn Elementary School

Vrygrond is now considered a suburb of Cape Town; it was the first of the “squatters villages” that grew up in the area and, unlike many such communities, is multi-ethnic and multicultural.  The people who live there are socially and economically deprived. There is violence on a regular basis from gangs and most recently from warring taxi drivers.

Capricorn Elementary School opened in 2008; prior to this the small Library and the Creche (pre-school) were the only groups providing help for the children. Capricorn serves 400 students in the grades R-3 in the South African system. When they finish here, students must go to school in other communities, which is very difficult for them.

The Butterfly Project, supported by the International Child Art Foundation, is helping traumatized children from the township to develop resilience and some hope in the dealing with the ongoing violence in their lives. As late as last Friday parents refused to bring their children to school because of it.

Children and Teachers, Capricorn Elementary School, Vrygrond, SA

Children and Teachers, Capricorn Elementary School, Vrygrond, SA


Children and Teachers Vrygrond, SA

Children and Teachers
Vrygrond, SA


3 responses »

  1. If we had “creative expression as a way to better put us in touch with ourselves and others–” we would stop seeing all these mass murders that seem rampant in our country. There is simply too much distance between all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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