By Michael Zuch
Music City, USA. Known as the city of dreamers and hopefuls trying to break into the music industry, the growing city is so much more than honky tonks and country music festivals. The city holds a historic legacy of leadership in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, acting as a central location for organizing, training, and action. To this day, Nashville is home to a vibrant community of passionate leaders and care-providers working for healing and social change. With its natural love for music and the arts paired with an innovative social and health services industry, it felt natural to host a First Aid Arts Healing Arts Toolkit (HAT) training. As a Nashville resident myself, as well as a former trainee, HAT facilitator, and now First Aid Arts staff member, I knew this work could provide refreshing and innovative insight on trauma and creative care to the local community.
At the end of May, First Aid Arts trained 18 participants from around Middle Tennessee and the greater Southeast with arts-based tools for trauma care and psychosocial support. This group comprised a rich cross section of people with various kinds of training, experience, and backgrounds, representing some of the region’s most courageous and compassionate trauma-care providers working in diverse contexts, such as serving survivors of human trafficking, former child soldiers in Central & East Africa, local immigrants and refugees, LGBTQI+ youth, individuals and families experiencing homelessness, racial justice activists, and other systemically disenfranchised community members. There was certainly no lack of experience and rich conversation in the room.
As a First Aid Arts staff member, one of my favorite parts of the training is watching the participants allow themselves to engage in self care and reflection. It is rare that people in this line of work have the opportunity to truly let themselves be attentive and present to their own needs. Throughout the week, I even saw how that impacted my own work apart from the training - I grew more aware of my need for greater self-compassion. Cultivating the space for creativity and playfulness among the participants and facilitators was contagious to everyone in the building, as the host facilities staff shared with me at the end of each training day. The experience revealed to me the deep need for places where we can interact with ourselves and others authentically and compassionately, especially in a world where we are bombarded with trauma and tragedy every day. This is why I believe in the work of First Aid Arts for my community in Nashville and those around the world.
None of this would have been possible without the generous donation of the facilities at The Healing Trust, the partnership with Lipscomb University’s Center for Play Therapy and Expressive Arts, supplies from Turnip Green Creative Reuse, and the monetary donations of individuals and churches throughout the city that made the training financially accessible for many of our participants! We are incredibly grateful for their support and partnership!
The impact of the training is best understood from one of our training participants, Rachel Styers:
"This week, a few of my coworkers and I got to take part in a training through First Aid Arts. We learned about the negative impact of trauma on the body, mind, spirit, relationships, and community, but also how our bodies through positive experience and ritual are actually able to rewire our brains and heal tremendously in these areas. Our bodies have a beautiful and incredible ability to adapt, mend, and relearn through practices of spiritual, communal, relational, and creative love, nourishment, and taking care of our bodies. I am grateful for this training and so excited to share this with our community at @roomintheinn. I post this picture not only because I took time to run around strawberry and sunflower fields this week, but also because the earth around us speaks to this ability for regrowth and upholds these qualities we long for and strive for so beautifully."