Creative Arts in Disaster Recovery: The Power of Healing and Resilience - DisasterWISE
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Creative Arts in Disaster Recovery: The Power of Healing and Resilience

In the wake of a disaster, communities often face immense challenges, from physical destruction to emotional trauma. However, people can connect, learn and support each other through these times, and the creative arts can be a powerful tool for healing and building resilience. In the April Get-Together, DisasterWISE members gathered to hear from Deb Borsos in British Columbia, to hear more about community recovery practice in Canada.

Deb shared insights from a recent arts conference where she facilitated a scenario-type discussion of people in a rural community dealing with a wildfire in the town during an arts festival. The conversation flowed as we learned more from participants in the group.

We heard and learned more about The Creative Recovery Network and significant arts projects such as ‘Refuge’ that demonstrated the transformative potential of creativity in disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

Creative Recovery Network: Fostering Resilience Through Creativity

The Creative Recovery Network (CRN) is a non-profit organization based in Australia dedicated to harnessing the power of the arts in disaster recovery. Founded in response to whole of State flooding in Queensland in 2011, CRN recognizes that traditional approaches to preparedness and recovery often neglect alternative approaches to the emotional and psychological needs of survivors. Through collaboration with artists, community groups, and government agencies, CRN works to integrate arts and culture into disaster recovery strategies.

One of CRNs key initiatives is supporting the facilitation of creative workshops and projects in affected communities. These workshops provide a safe space for people to come together and to express their experiences, emotions, and hopes through various artistic mediums such as painting, music, storytelling, and theatre. With opportunities to engage in a range of creative activities, survivors can process their trauma, build connections with others, and regain a sense of agency and purpose.

CRN also emphasizes the importance of cultural safety, preservation and revitalization in disaster recovery. Recognizing that disasters often disproportionately impact Indigenous communities and cultural heritage, CRN supports initiatives that promote cultural resilience and healing through traditional arts and practices. Read more.

Melbourne Arts House Refuge Project: Art as a Catalyst for Community Planning and Healing

Since 2016, Refuge has brought together people who might not normally collaborate in a crisis – local residents, artists, scientists, Elders and experts from the world of emergency services. Their task is to identify what matters when the unthinkable becomes real: what being prepared means in the face of disaster, how the survival of the individual is inextricably bound up with the survival of the community, and what role we can each play.

Refuge promotes new ways to ground equity, access, dignity and hope in our planning, response and recovery to catastrophe through a creative approach. Read more.

Nurturing Hope and Resilience Through Creativity

In times of crisis, the creative arts offer hope, bring varying ways of knowing together to explore what is and what could be. Organizations like the Creative Recovery Network and projects like Refuge demonstrate that artistic expression is not a luxury but a fundamental human need, especially in the aftermath of emergencies and disasters. By providing avenues for emotional expression, social connection, and community empowerment, the creative arts play a vital role in fostering healing, resilience, and renewal in disaster-affected communities.

Want to delve deeper? Here are some links shared during the May Get-Together;

An Antidote to Disaster Despair: Art and Community by Katia Tynan
Innovation Hiding in Plain Sight: Volunteer Driven Case Studies AJEM Vol. 36 No. 4 Oct 2021
Climate Disaster Preparedness; Reimaging Extreme Events through Art and Technology

1 Comment

  • Pete Williams
    Posted June 5, 2024 at 9:52 pm

    Spending time yesterday visiting the Blacksmith ‘s Tree and Memorial in Strathewen and sharing the story of the Flowerdale tree, 15 years on from Black Saturday, really reminded me of the importance of art and symbols in ensuring that the story of the disaster persists. Very timely

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