For 20 years, I've been facilitating collaborative murals that envision success to community challenges, heal heartbreak and honor native trees. The Singing Tree Project has produced 87 murals by 20,000 people from 52 countries. Planning for four years, I was finally ready to train others in this "Peace Building Through Art" methodology when Covid-19 hit. The joy of painting side by side is one of the key elements to the healing quality of the collaborative mural project. Resilience was demanded. I pivoted and organized the 1st “Co-heart” of Certified Singing Tree Facilitators on-line in August, 2020 with 12 women from five countries.
Though we were spread around the world, we co-created The Rowan Singing Tree of Embracing Our Unknown, as practice for healing heartbreak through the Singing Tree methodology. After generating a list of over 30 heartbreaking issues, we focused on the uncertainty in the world, co-creating a symbol that allowed the many unknowns we face as individuals and a world to be a shared experience which we embrace together. Each participant made an image using the Singing Tree structure of a tree on the earth in space. They photographed their image and sent it to me electronically. I synthesized their work into one symbol as well as printed out their unique ideas to be included in the mural. Each participant also colored leaves with the images of their gift to the Unknown and birds with images with their wish for the Unknown.
Co-heart 1 is now embarking on facilitating Nature-based collaborative Singing Tree murals in their communities. For example, Bobbie Rae Jones is immediately using the healing power of art. As a case worker in Butte County, CA through the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, USA , she serves the town of Paradise which was destroyed by fire in 2018. 86 people lost their lives. Just two weeks ago, 15 more lives were lost in the Bear Fire incident as fires engulfed the region again. People who rebuilt their homes lost them for a second time. The grief is too much. Bobbie Rae and I painted simultaneously on the “Embracing Our Unknown” – she in her Chico studio while I painted in my Novato studio. Bobbie Rae will be taking her version to her clients with a basket full of paper birds and leaves and colored pencils for whole families to pour their grief and love onto.
Anabelle Hoffmann, who was born in Somalia and lives in London, is the founder of Heal Together. The NGO serves Somalian immigrants in the United Kingdom. She will be creating a Singing Tree to support the mental health of her community.
Jeanna King-Ruppel, a Restorative Response specialist in the public schools of Santa Rosa, CA , is partnering with the virtual Learning House public school community to co-facilitate a multi-media Singing Tree Project with 7th – 9th graders. Visual imagery, spoken word, dance, and music will be combined into a positive message.
Gabi Lipska, who grew up in Poland and is living in Northern England, will be reaching out to the immigrant community in the Cumbria region. She works for NGO CDEC, the Cumbria Development Education Center. The first Singing Tree in Cumbria will be that of Resilience – working with young people in the town of Workington to envision resilience on both individual and community level in schools. Minoritized youth have faced increased racism during the past few months as they leave quarantine. The project will help middle school students find strength in handling transitions from leaving the relative safety of their family bubbles to re-engaging with peers who have seen, heard and been affected by racial tensions.
We are in this together, growing Unity Through Creativity in new ways in a new world. We can do this.