By Tracy Penfield, SafeArt Founding Director
Upon publishing SafeArt’s Curriculum of Courage last autumn, I stepped away from day-to-day SafeArt programming to promote the book and share our SafeArt methods with the world beyond Orange County, Vermont.
I lifted my gaze all the way across the country and in late February went to California for a series of meetings and presentations of the book and our work, to a diverse group of people and agencies, mostly in the Bay Area. Two of the organizations, Futures Without Violence and One Circle Foundation, create and market curricula all over the country and are interested in partnering with SafeArt. We are in early conversations about this, and it was exciting to talk with people who understand that the imagination is the most powerful tool human beings posses. Training in the practical and expressive use of that tool is what many people lack.
One overarching theme emerged in my conversations. Even though evidence-based outcomes and research do confirm that creative expression works as a trauma management and healing modality, many people do not use the expressive arts in their curricula. Why? The reply I received time and again was that the practitioners (teachers, therapists, social workers, researchers) do not identify as “artists,” therefore they do not feel qualified to offer lessons or sessions utilizing creative expression. This was both disheartening and encouraging, as I feel our Curriculum of Courage was created for these people, in all of these categories of direct service offerings. Yes! I said to them, read this! Try this! Play with these explorations!
An extremely fulfilling and fortuitous meeting was with Dr. Alicia Lieberman, Director of the Child Trauma Research Program at San Francisco General Hospital. She is a warm, compassionate and open-minded scientist who understood the SafeArt message immediately. I left her with six copies of the book, which she is sharing with grad students and postdoctoral fellows. One of them is already using it with a patient. We need more scientists like Alicia to comprehend that while healing artists need the quantitative validation that research offers, research scientists also need the qualitative validation that the healing arts give to their work.
While in California I cherished my time walking on sandy beaches, amongst monumental redwoods and on ridges washed bright green with all the rains of earlier in the winter. Staying with longtime friends in all my various locations made the visit deeply meaningful, beyond the productivity of the book promotion. And eating citrus that I picked off of trees outside my bedrooms was sublime! Luckily, I have returned to sugaring season to help friends here in Vermont produce a delectable treat as wondrous as citrus fruit.