The Art of Healing

From Marina Krim:

In the early days of the Lulu & Leo Fund, one of the biggest challenges we faced was -- how could we use our unique and terrible experience to help others. Whatever we ended up doing, we wanted to really believe in it. Back then, we had no idea what a "SuperArtist" was. We didn't really understand how we were rebuilding our life and reconnecting with the world, but we were. Along the way, the important influences became more clear and our SuperArtist program was born.

I'm going to tell you the backstory behind SuperArtist, the way it has guided our journey and why I believe so strongly in its message.

The night of Oct 25, 2012, I was sitting in the hospital, Nessie clinging to my chest, and I was asking over and over to anybody who would listen -- what am I supposed to do tomorrow? How do I do this? What do we do? The hospital workers looked at me with a blank stare. They didn't have an answer for me. A few days later, Kevin and I met some of the top psychiatrists in NYC, and they didn't have a reassuring answer for us either. People often told us "Time will heal" -- that seemed more than a little daunting. There was no obvious path for us, no manual with step by step directions about how to deal with a blow like this, no teacher telling us what to do.

Looking back on those early months, it was tapping into our inner SuperArtist that ultimately saved us and began to guide us along this unknown path.

I remember looking at our daughter Nessie in the darkest days and I so admired her ability to just live in the present, seeing the world just as one should. To me, it seemed like she had all the answers. Though she missed her siblings, she was laughing and enjoying herself and making every heartbroken person around her smile. She was intrigued by each new face that entered our hotel room, she was entertained by simply looking out the window. She wanted to draw and collect and make things. It was this idea -- the idea of seeing and connecting to the world as a young child does -- that guided us through the darkest days and is the true inspiration behind SuperArtist.

Nessie and all children are natural SuperArtists -- they use creativity and curiosity, imagination and enthusiasm to navigate themselves through the ups and downs of life. They have a special way of connecting to the world, as artists do. Our SuperArtist program is a platform to build stronger families, children, students and communities by helping them grow this creative confidence. We want to give parents the tools to nurture a child's natural creativity and use it to help themselves grow as individuals, parents, and families.

SuperArtists only need the bare essentials to work their magic -- this is why we created the SuperArtist On-The-Go bags for kids and parents who don't quite know yet of these special powers found within themselves. These bags are a reminder to families that there is no excuse for not practicing creativity. You don't need the best art supplies or elaborate instructions to tell you how to create things -- it can be as simple as a pencil and paper combined with your own personal experiences and imagination. Creating something meaningful comes from within -- this is the kind of creativity that we hope all families will make a part of their lives.

Creativity has been our own personal therapy throughout this journey -- by tapping into our inner SuperArtist, we have been able to see very difficult moments from different perspectives. We've been able to make critical connections that were not the obvious answers. Being SuperArtists has reconnected us to our past and to the world in a deeper way. I am still able to be the Mama I once was to Lulu and Leo. Being SuperArtists has helped us paint our own unique path that is authentic and inspirational.

Creativity is not just for "artistic" people, it is a tool we were all born with. Every person in this room is a SuperArtist. It's a way of thinking, of challenging yourself and of going through life in a meaningful, constructive way. My challenge to you is to embrace your inner SuperArtist!!!

From Kevin Krim:

Creative confidence is the underlying principle of SuperArtists. Creative confidence -- though we didn't even know that was a term used by people who study and practice this sort of thing -- is what we had that helped us rebuild and build anew in the face of obliterating darkness.

So what is creative confidence and why does it matter beyond our personal experience? Marina came across the book "Creative Confidence" written by David and Tom Kelley, two brothers who founded the famous design firm IDEO, after we had already piloted the first SuperArtist program here at MCNY. We had never heard of the concept before. These brothers define Creative Confidence loosely as the belief in your ability to affect positive change in the world around you. That's intuitively a good thing. But research by legendary Stanford psychology professor Albert Bandura also has quantified the benefit. His research has shown that people with high scores of creative confidence "set their sights higher, try harder, persevere longer, and show more resilience in the face of [adversity]." That certainly sounds like what Marina is talking about with the SuperArtist program.

Picasso once said that all children are born artists. The challenge we face is to stay artists as we grow up. That's why our programs focus on whole families; the parents are just as important as the children. (For more on this idea, watch Sir Ken Robinson's excellent TED talk "How schools kill creativity.")

This also matters beyond the individual or the family. Our society needs more creativity. At the best schools chess is all the rage. It's a great game. But did you know that an iPhone is so powerful these days that a run-of-the-mill chess app can regularly beat the world's best human chess master. Computers are rapidly getting better at many jobs than humans. (To explore this topic more thoroughly, please read the superb book, The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.) To prepare our kids for the future, we should be encouraging our children to use their creativity to invent new games. In schools, children from low-income families are 50 percent less likely to participate in arts programs than those from affluent families (source: 2011 National Endowment for the Arts study, Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation) AND students without art education are 5x more likely to drop out of school.

We need you all to believe in the Lulu & Leo Fund mission. We served 2,300 children in 2014 through our programs. We want to more than double that in 2015. We want you to be our advocates. To recruit more supporters. To convince others that creative confidence is as important in education as the STEM subjects. Every child, every family deserves the opportunities Lulu and Leo had to engage with art and creativity and the healing that comes from it.