Last month... I went to Colorado.
And saw this:
But before I visited the Rocky Mountain National Park
and had the privilege of encountering a herd of elk,
I was honored with the opportunity to do this:
At the 40th Annual Natural Hazard Conference and Workshop hosted by the
Natural Hazard Center at the University of Colorado.
Of course, my response was --- There is an entire conference where people get together and talk about Natural Disasters? And I am invited??? That is so awesome!! --- and then I calmed down and said of course, I would be honored.
In addition to speaking on the panel, the coordinator of the conference invited me to bring some of the Natural Disaster paintings to display in the lobby during the event. So a few months later and a plane ride to Colorado, I found myself setting up paintings on easels and embarking on a five day conference to mingle and learn from over 450+ Natural Hazard specialists from around the world.
The conference was filled with concurrent sessions focusing on climate change adaption and sustainability, disaster communication and management, issues in emergency management, response and recovery, and vulnerability and resilience. As well as sessions looking at the current research on Natural Hazards. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, I sat in on every session that addressed my current interests - wild fires, earthquakes, and climate change!
Over the first few days, I learned about Hydroclimatic extremes in the west, Canterbury earthquakes, and Wildfire Hazards from the perspective of environmental researchers in Australia. I met people who experienced the recent earthquake in Nepal and helped through the recovery process, and researchers exploring new ways to share the risks of living near disaster prone regions. I also spoke with scientists researching volcanoes, emergency management experts from all over the USA, and a few students who were open to learning just like I was.
Then it was my turn to share what I knew.
The topic of the panel I participated on was called "Art and Culture in Disaster Recovery." Along with Gwen Vogel, Bruce Boyd Raeburn, and Hillary Prag, we discussed how art and culture can play an important role in processing trauma and helping communities heal. I personally discussed my paintings and how they celebrate the breathtaking beauty of each Natural Hazard, but can be cathartic for survivors to heal and move forward. And I shared how these paintings were a way to help heal the survivors by metaphorically stitching their wounds.
During the panel, I learned from Gwen Vogel about her work in Nigeria where she launched an art psycho-social program aimed at helping adults and children who survived a series of massacres that took place in 2004. Her use of art in the program helped children break free of their traumatic experiences. I learned about Jazz and how music helped the New Orleans region recover after Hurricane Katrina, from Bruce Boyd Raeburn. And explored Hillary Prag's photography workshop program for at-risk youth, and how it helped victims of trauma move forward as advocates for themselves and others.
And, I learned from the audience that there were Natural Hazard specialists who were bringing art into their own work. They shared their projects that are geared towards bringing communities together to heal and recover with art.
But before I came back to Arizona --- I made some more new friends...