The Healing Power of Art

9 07 2015

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He heard that there were more than 27 million people living in slavery — whole families working in quarries, women and children trafficked into sexual bondage, children recruited as soldiers and forced to kill. He heard, and as the reality threatened to crush, it wrung a question from his tormented soul.

“What can one musician do?”

Sometimes a question is simply a question. But sometimes it’s a key pressed into your hand by an unseen Presence. Sometimes a question is a summons, meant to take you somewhere.

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Like Abraham, he went out not knowing where he was going, but in faith he took a first step. He registered his band as a non-profit organization and partnered with International Justice Mission. He spoke about modern-day slavery during concerts and at justice conferences, raising awareness and funding.

“Do what you love to undo what you hate,” became his motto. He wanted to make music, but he wanted his music to do more than entertain. He wanted it to expose darkness. To stir people to action.

It was a good work. A meaningful work. But it was only the foundation.

One girl’s story changed everything.

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She’d been rescued from a brothel and was living in an aftercare facility, but the trauma she’d suffered had shut her down. She couldn’t speak. Not about the horrors she’d endured. Not about anything. Pain silenced her.

Until someone introduced her to a piano. She began to play, and something inside of her broke free. She poured her pain, her anguish, her shame, her fear through her fingers into those keys, and the walls came down. Words followed. And healing.

And just like that, he knew what he had to do. Music enriched his own life. He knew its power. He would go beyond merely doing what he loved to serve a cause. He would invite survivors to experience the power of art, too.

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Along with his wife and some like-minded friends, he envisioned a world where wounded hearts heal beautifully. Where counselors and therapists and aftercare workers are equipped with tools to bring music, movement, and visual arts to the people they serve. The vision was much bigger than one man’s ability to accomplish it, but he sensed divine purpose and leaned into the One whose resources are limitless.

His was to ask the right questions. God’s was to supply. Mentors, wisdom, guidance, research, funds, structure, staff, volunteers, passion, opportunity, favor, and grace upon grace. And so First Aid Arts was born. In five short years, here’s what they’ve achieved:

  • Developed and piloted a multi-modal arts-based curriculum for addressing the symptoms of trauma.
  • Trained 290 staff and volunteers at 132 organizations serving trauma survivors in 15 countries.
  • Reached more than 3,300 survivors of trauma with life-giving tools.
  • Advised other non-profits in how to use arts to address trauma, some of them long-standing organizations with global reach.
  • Amassed a waiting list of nearly 100 organizations desiring training.
  • Received invitations from governments to equip first-responders.
  • Formed partnerships with trauma care providers spanning the globe.
  • Received invitations to present at national and international conferences, symposiums and other events on trauma and the arts.

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What can one musician do? What anyone can do.

We are all created in the image of a Creator. We were all made to make beauty and to invite others to do the same. It doesn’t matter if we consider ourselves artists or not — it’s not a competition, and the goal isn’t to impress people. The most profound power of art is in the process. That’s why a big part of First Aid Arts training is devoted to equipping and encouraging trauma care providers to engage in the arts for self-care as well as for use with those they serve.

We’re all broken in one way or another. Art is a powerful tool for healing.

Whoever you are, you are an exquisite work of God’s art, created to create. With your words or your work, in your kitchen or at your computer. With a camera or a paintbrush, a guitar or a dashboard drum, what will you do today to make the world more beautiful?

Do what you love to undo what you hate. But don’t stop there. Envision a world where wounded hearts heal beautifully — give others the gifts that bring you life, and then sit back and watch as, one by one, desert places explode with new life.

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Ask the right questions, and then don’t be afraid to use the key He gives you. The promised land awaits.

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This post is linked with The High Calling’s Theme, “Art Matters.”
Click here for more articles on this theme.


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5 responses

9 07 2015
GynaffiT

Nice, I love it. I’ve been an artist since a child…great story

9 07 2015
George A. Damoff

Thank you for your words and photos.

9 07 2015
Sandra Heska King

“Do what you love to undo what you hate. But don’t stop there.” And in that we heal our own wounding, too. And how often it happens when we make art as God’s masterpieces. Thank you, Jeanne. xo

9 07 2015
Patricia @ Pollywog Creek

“The most profound power of art is in the process.” Yes!!!

So happy that you are sharing this Jeanne. So grateful for you.

9 07 2015
jodyo70

Jeanne, this is the best encapsulation(?) of Curtis and Grace’s work. Such a beautiful piece…. My favorite line is the one Patricia mentioned above, ‘the power of art is in the process.’ Amen. So very glad you are sharing about First Aid Arts here.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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