Photos taken by Monica Kovach…thank you, Monica!
Photos taken by Monica Kovach…thank you, Monica!
Please enjoy these photos from the 2013 Small Resources = Big Possibilities Event! We made nearly $8,000 with your support!
Photos by Jessica Sabo…stay tuned for more!
Thursday, April 11,2013
Please note that some names have been changed in order to protect confidentiality.
The drawing shows a purple bird’s nest holding five eggs, each a different color, balanced on the limb of a tree. Filling the sky around the tree branches is a crowd of birds, open V shapes drawn in orange pastel. It’s a simple drawing, but a big story.
The image, and the story it carries, is one of more than Sue Wallingford can count that came from a trip to Cambodia in May. Wallingford, assistant professor at Naropa University’s art therapy program and faculty advisor of the Naropa Community Art Studio-International, and seven of her students, went to Cambodia to volunteer in a home that rehabilitates and reintegrates girls rescued from sex trafficking. She’ll return this May with a group of 10 students, expanding the program to visit more locations and work with girls as young as 5 who have been victims of trafficking and teach the staff working with those girls to use art therapy to rebuild skills often lost in trauma, like problem-solving.
The bird’s nest drawing was done by a 15-year-old girl, Srey Ka, who lives in the shelter. At the invitation of Ka’s therapist, Wallingford performed the bird’s nest assessment with her, an art therapy technique meant to draw out and gauge attachment to and feelings toward family from childhood. Ka’s therapist thought she was dealing with attachment issues and PTSD from years of sexual abuse and torture.
As Wallingford coached, Ka sketched out the purple and blue lines of a nest, then Wallingford prompted — what was in the nest? Ka drew the five eggs.
“At one point, I asked her, ‘What does the bird’snest need?’ And she said, ‘It needs to be taken care of. It needs someone to take care of it, but she’s flown away and she’s far,’” Wallingford recounts. “And I said, ‘Well, would you like for me to draw that in the picture?’ So I drew the bird, but far away because she wasn’t ready for it to be at the nest.”
Wallingford kept drawing birds, and looked to Ka’s therapist and a translator helping with the assessment and asked if Ka would like them to help. The three gathered around the drawing.
“We ended up enveloping this tree, this nest, with all these birds to take care of this nest,” Wallingford says. “She just visibly relaxed, she just was like, she took a breath and said, ‘OK, that’s enough.’ And I reflected to her, I said, ‘This nest must be really special for all these birds to want to come see it.’”
‘Hanging Love Charm’ by Merryl Rothaus | Courtesy of the Naropa Community Art Studio-International
The experience has fueled Wallingford to keep expanding the program, increasing the length of the stay and the number of students, taking them to even more challenging settings and adding new programs, like one to teach women to make handicrafts that can then be brought back to the U.S. to sell, and a mini-conference on using art therapy for the staff and clinical teams of an organization that supports 50 shelters for victims of trafficking in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.
“It’s really important that this be a sustainable project — and it has been,” Wallingford says. She returned to Cambodia for three weeks in November to check up on the programs, and said the evidence that what she and her students had taught was being used was overwhelming.
“I think one thing that’s happened, too, as a result of having been there, rather than just me knowing a little bit more about the culture and knowing what to expect and all that, is the social justice piece — the piece around really wanting to make change,” Wallingford says. “I just can’t be complacent any more. There’s that quality of, I’m sorry but I cannot just let something like this go unnoticed. That drives me a lot.”
‘I Burned My Hand Pouring My Heart Out, but It’s OK Because I’m Reminded I Can Feel’ by Sarai Nissan | Courtesy of the Naropa Community Art Studio-International
“You go to countries as a tourist and there’s a little bit of a nice boundary for you to really understand fully what this country has experienced and the trauma that’s there,” says Danielle Rifkin, who has traveled and volunteered in Cambodia before but will return with Wallingford to practice and teach art therapy. “Really trying to understand, by being able to sit with all these people, what their experience has been I think will be really different for me.”
Wallingford and the students going with her to Cambodia this year have organized the second annual matchbox art auction gala, Small Resources = Big Possibilities, for April 12 to fundraise for the trip. They distributed matchboxes around the community to use in art pieces that have since poured back in to Wallingford’s office and will be auctioned at the gala.
“There’s a definite business aspect to all this, just getting prepared for the gala itself,” says Emily Wilson, who brought eight years of experience as a corporate project manager to organizing the gala.
They’ve done community awareness and fundraising to keep the program sustainable, but the purpose goes beyond raising money, Wilson says.
“Even more than that it’s such an outlet for community awareness and to really bring a dialogue around these issues and to let people know what we’re doing. People get excited.”
Small Resources = Big Possibilities matchbox art auction gala will be held at 7 p.m. April 12 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St. All proceeds will benefit the Naropa Community Art Studio-International. Tickets are $30 and are available at www.NCAS-I.brownpapertickets.com.
“Raising Funds and Raising Awareness – The Work Before the Work”
by Emily Wilson
I am so incredibly excited, and perhaps just now realizing, that we are going to Cambodia to learn, to serve, to share our skills, and to build relationship. That may seem strange, as this blog and project have been going on for over a year, a group of students already went and I had been accepted for this project months ago. But for me, it is just becoming real. So much preparation has been going on; learning about Cambodia and Trauma-Informed Art Therapy®, exploring cultural humility, discussing ethics, getting vaccines, figuring out the schedule logistics and NGOs that we will be partnering with, participating in community awareness events, and raising funds. It is hard to believe that in less than two months, we will be on the plane to Cambodia getting ready to embark on a life changing experience.
So, how do we pay for the plane tickets, the art supplies to bring, the accommodation for students and supervisors while we are there? The answer – A lot of hard work and all of you! I began getting involved with NCAS-I at the beginning of 2012. I helped serve in the role as Project Manger to organize the 2012 Art Auction Gala, then the 2012 Painting Marathon and now this year’s Art Auction Gala. It took a dedicated and tireless body of student volunteers, community members, and faculty and staff to coordinate, and take responsibility for all of the moving parts to create these successful fundraisers. Since the start of this project less than two years ago, we have held over 30 formal 2-4 hours meeting and countless one-off meetings, over 500 individually tracked tasks our control log, enough funds raised to ‘pay it forward’ to sponsor the next year’s trip each year, over 300 volunteers, 250 artists donating matchboxes, and numerous in-kind donations including entertainment, food and drink.
So, why do we do this? Perhaps if each person took the countless hours invested to work a part time job, we could raise the same amount, or even more funds towards the trip. I have three answers for this:
1. It builds community – This year’s trip will be undertaken by a group of ten students and two supervisors. Through our time together and especially our time working hard to create these events, we are building cohesiveness in our group. A sense of community, togetherness, with each member having an active and contributing role helps to describe group cohesiveness (Corey, Corey & Corey, 2010, Yalom & Leszc, 2005). I am learning through our process of hard work that I can count on each person, I am seeing others’ many strengths, and I feel we are creating a bond that will hopefully serve us well as we embark on this adventure.
2. It brings awareness – These events also bring awareness to the community and create an environment for dialogue; about sex trafficking, about international work and cultural humility, about the ethics involved, about working with fair trade organizations and orphanages, about sending collective prayers and wishes for peace. And in addition to the fund-raising events, we participate in many other community awareness events, such as the Longmont Street Festival, at which we talked about this project, and created prayer flags as a symbol for hopes and wishes. NCAS-I members also spoke about their 2012 trip at a community event and spoke at a Naropa Board meeting to bring awareness within the Naropa Community. We participated in CU’s Eye Contact event, which was specifically geared towards the issues of human trafficking. We participated in Art Therapy workshops at BMOCA, a sex trafficking symposium with Transitions, spoke on KGNU, had a feature in Naropa Magazine and the Daily Camera, the Boulder Weekly and more! We are sparking a dialogue and trying to bring a moment for discussion wherever we go.
3. It is FUN! – Each event I participated in and even the work up to the event was FUN! We laugh, we have exciting events, we create together, we eat great food, we express gratitude and it is super fun. Rather than write anymore, I have included these pictures to express my sentiment.
Corey C., Corey J., & Corey M. (2010). Groups: Process and practice (8th ed.). Brooks/Cole: Belmont, CA.
Yalom, I & Leszcz, M. (2005). The Theory and practice of group psychotherapy. Basic Books: Cambridge, MA.
“The Transformational Power of Art”
By Lisa Lamoreaux
The 2nd Annual Matchbox Art Auction Gala is just around the corner, and our team is busy preparing for the event. I get more and more excited with each matchbox coming in. I am amazed and inspired by the creativity of the artists. Inspecting them closely, I see the tiny masterpieces as a snapshot into the artist’s personal universe. Each box becomes its own world, with its own story that is unique to the artist’s hand that created it. All the pieces are so different, and yet, all connected through their humble beginnings as a matchbox. A matchbox turned into something more – a beautiful piece of art that will be auctioned off at this year’s gala.
When thinking of the incredible matchbox transformations, I am reminded of something I read in preparation for our upcoming trip to Cambodia. Herbert (2012) talks about finding in the galleries and shops of Cambodia, works of art and jewelry crafted from the metal of old, deactivated landmines. Herbert (2012) describes these pieces of jewelry and art as being proof of the possibilities to transform traumatic experiences through art. When reading this, I was struck by the Cambodian people’s resiliency. They are literally taking pieces of their traumatic, war torn history and turning it into something beautiful. They are using art to rewrite the stories and reclaim their culture. By doing this, the people of Cambodia are integrating their experiences and healing from societal trauma.
“Hanging Love Charm” by Merryl Rothaus
Many of the people we will be working with in Cambodia have experienced trauma on both a historical and a personal level. We are going there to offer art therapy as a tool to heal these traumas. It is also important to remember that the Cambodian people are the experts of their experiences, and that we are going there to learn from them.
In 2011 a group of people were inspired to expand Naropa Community Art Studio (NCAS) to include international work (NCAS-I). The dream started with $50 dollars that bought 500 matchboxes. Those matchboxes were transformed into masterpieces, and auctioned off to raise funds at our first Matchbox Art Auction Gala. The gala was such a success that we decided to do it again. The 2013 service-learning trip to Cambodia is made possible through the support of our community coming together and donating time and money. Please join us for the 2nd Annual Matchbox Art Auction Gala, April 12, 2013, from 7 to 10pm for a fun-filled night of art and entertainment.
Herbert, C. (2012). Integration of arts therapy and traditional Cambodian arts and rituals in recovering from political-societal trauma In D. Kalmanowitz, J. Potash & S. Chan (Eds.), Art therapy in Asia: To bone or wrapped in silk (pp. 209-220). Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
“The Ethics of Matchbox Art”
By James Huffman
As part of our preparation for our work in Cambodia we have been exploring ethical issues related to the field of art therapy. Our beacon through this, sometimes cloudy area, has been Bruce Moon’s (2006) work, Ethical Issues in Art Therapy, which does an excellent job highlighting various perspectives and providing scenarios for consideration. As prepared as we may feel, however, for whatever ethical dilemmas we may encounter, there will always be situations which fall outside our textbooks and where we will have to exercise our best judgment.
One such situation occurred several weeks ago at a youth matchbox art making party at Sterling Drive Studios. It was the end of the night and we had just begun the tedious work of deciding which scraps of paper and fabric were large enough to keep and which to throw away, whether it is worth it to fish those 7 beads out of the dustpan or should we toss the whole mess… We had given the artists the option of either donating their matchboxes at the end of the night or keeping them and had received several donations. In the chaos of cleanup, some of the donated matchboxes were placed on the same table as scraps and other materials to be sorted. One piece of matchbox art was particularly confusing – several crumpled pieces of paper drizzled in hot glue with matchsticks stuck seemingly at random throughout it. Initially thinking this to be trash, I threw it in the garbage with the other used and discarded materials. When later I saw it back on the table, I was told it was a donated matchbox with a $1,000 price tag (artists are allowed to suggest a minimum bid for their work).
After cleanup we began packing the donated matchboxes for travel and faced the decision of what to do with the cup. In all likelihood, the extravagant pricetag was a joke and the $1,000 minimum bid would not be met. We would then have to make arrangements after the Gala to return the matchbox to the artist, creating more work for ourselves. So do we keep it?
I believe the answer is yes. As art therapists it is important to define the playing field and stick to the boundaries we set, especially in work with youth and adolescents where conflicts over boundaries are more likely to occur (Santrock, 2010). Boundaries can be reassessed as we go, but they should not be applied retroactively. In this instance we had not provided any boundaries around what the matchbox art should look like or what the minimum bids should be. There is also the possibility that the artist is an aspiring trash sculptor – the likes of HA Schult – and honestly believes their work is worth $1,000. We can’t really know. All we know for certain is that the artist created a unique piece of art, then took the time to fill out a donation form and it is up to us to honor that donation.
Santrock, J. (2010). Lifespan Development. New York: McGraw-Hill
*details have been changed to protect the identity of the artist
“Cultural Humility, Political Correctness, and Intentions”
By Alexa Pinsker
“The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.” – bell hooks
In preparation for our trip to Cambodia, we have been discussing the most beneficial ways to communicate our purpose, vision, and mission of the trip. As we dialogue more, it seems more awareness around language has resulted. Recently, I joked that it is difficult to explain the trip in a few sentences because each week the appropriate language has changed. For example, I once described the trip as a service-learning trip intended to empower women survivors of the sex trafficking industry. As Zara Zimbardo illustrated, the word empower implies that a woman does not have power and that another (in this case a White American Naropa student) has the ability to give her power. This meaning changes the intention of the word and creates, as well as perpetuates, the notion of the “savior” who goes in to help the powerless victim. This was not my intention and I would not want to imply this by using the word “empower.” Consequently, I do see the value in examining appropriate language. However, I do not want to be so vigilant about using the appropriate word that I am afraid to express or communicate at all to people here and to the Cambodian people.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines political correctness as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that exclude, marginalize, or insult certain racial or cultural groups” (Barber, 2001). As a group, the notion of “do no harm” has often come up, meaning if you are unsure of your intention or action, return to the principle of not doing harm to others. When sharing and exchanging with other cultures, some of the best experiences I’ve had have come from being open, curious, and respectful. I have certainly made mistakes when trying to understand one’s culture, but I have found that most people are forgiving if they see one is coming from a genuine place of curiosity and the desire to learn or understand. Connecting isn’t always about getting it right! The point is, it’s okay to make mistakes when working with people who may come from a different culture or religion. It is these mistakes which can often lead to greater understanding and awareness because we are not masking our ignorance with an attitude of all knowing expertise on a particular language or culture. Cultivating the right attitude is not just about using the right words; it’s also about cultivating the right intentions. As Bell Hooks (1994) beautifully states in her essay, Love as the Practice of Freedom, “The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.” Personally, my intention is to share Trauma-Informed Art Therapy® Skills with the people of Cambodia and to both learn and share as much as possible from the Cambodian people in the process, with an open heart.
Barber, K. (2001). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). Ontario: Oxford University Press.
hooks, b. (1994). Outlaw culture: Resisting representations. New York, NY: Routledge.