Artistic messages of healing sent around the world.
By Susan Schulz
We can't pretend that troubles don't exist, because problems are unavoidable. Countless communities worldwide are affected by natural and manmade disasters. However, hope comes alive when we realize hurts can be healed and difficulties overcome. Art brings this expectancy and healing to many, and, to celebrate Art Appreciation Month, we are spotlighting the unique disaster relief and community arts program, Stars of Hope, which has a branch in Canton.
Stars of Hope (SOH), founded in 2007 by Jeff Parness of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, empowers people to transform communities impacted by tragedy. It does this by helping groups create colorful art, and messages of hope and healing, on one-foot wooden stars that are displayed in public for months, and even years, after historic tragedies.
The stars serve as beacons of compassion for all to see and have made a direct impact on the long-term mental health and resiliency of individuals and entire communities recovering from disaster. These positive effects are proven by research done by Professor Scott Allison of the University of Richmond. “There is no organization more effective in converting despair to love, loss into recovery and tragedy to triumph,” Allison said.
Marcelle Robustelli, Canton resident and SOH program manager, said, “Tragic events make us all realize just how much we need each other. The art and messages on our stars bring love and healing in the hardest of situations.”
Marcelle stays busy bringing hope to places like the Orlando community, where the one-year anniversary of the Pulse night club terrorist attack just passed. As of this writing, she was headed to Manchester, England, to cover the arena terrorist attack, in which 22 people were killed during a concert. More than 45,000 volunteers have created Stars of Hope, which have transformed 90 communities in 20 countries.
Within days of the San Bernardino, Calif., attack, caring individuals in corporate offices around the United States took a few minutes out of their day to respond to the horrific event using their creativity and compassion. They started painting SOH to lift the spirits of the San Bernardino people. The painted stars were hung around the shooting site. “The building we were in symbolizes a place of deep sadness and pain,” wrote one survivor. “But these stars provide hope that things will get better.”
This demonstrates the power of art to heal and transform victims into survivors. And this process is being repeated for victims around the world, including the aftermath of tornadoes in Albany, Ga., the flooding of hurricane Sandy and the deadly Nepal earthquake. And, then there are the communities impacted by horrific acts of violence in addition to the places already mentioned, like Sandy Hook and Brussels, Belgium, and many other places.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” If you would like to volunteer from your school, home or office, or even organize a community event, and create Stars of Hope for our oftentimes dark world, visit: StarsofHOPEUSA.org. You can order your Box of Hope for $100, with free shipping. The box includes 15 wooden Stars of Hope, six bottles of colorful acrylic paints, 25 assorted brushes, an instruction booklet, and a beautiful, custom, reusable box. Marcelle ships your stars, free of charge, to a community that needs hope.