THE PARACHUTE PROJECT
Why does this project matter?
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of children include greater numbers falling into extreme poverty, country-wide school closures, lost learning, increased threats to child survival and health and heightened risk of exposure to violence and abuse (United Nations, 2020).
While research on the effects of COVID-19 are rapidly being published, we know very little about the impact of the pandemic that draws directly from the experience of children and youth (UNICEF, 2020). This project aims to unite communities, move past pandemic related apathy and mobilize efforts towards post-traumatic growth.
Behind the scenes: About the NYU Art Therapy in Schools Program
Since 1997 New York University has established school-based art therapy as an effective modality for children struggling with experiences of adversity. Treatment at the community level enables the art therapists to serve as the central point of connection and communication for students, teachers, and parents, allowing for a comprehensive and accurate perspective on progress and impediments. The structure and benefits of school-based art therapy services are comparable to outpatient mental health programs. Treatment is trauma-informed and involves case management to address student needs holistically.
To assure continuity of care, the NYU program art therapists have continued to provide remote art therapy to school-aged children in New York City’s public schools during the pandemic. These sessions have provided a sense of relief for children burdened by the anxieties of these uncertain times. Families with pre-existing stressors such as domestic violence and poverty have been further challenged by the COVID-19 associated outcomes of unemployment and food insecurity. Many more reports of alleged abuse and suicidal ideation have been assessed through these remote sessions.
Children participate remotely in semi-structured activities that enable them to articulate their thoughts and feelings through art making. Creative exploration provides mastery and acceptance of existing realities. Engagement in visual expression provides psychological distance to approach painful feelings of loss, isolation, frustration and the anguish associated with family hardship and financial insecurity. Children’s artwork is the medium through which children’s inner life is revealed, and helps illuminate the areas of support needed for recovery.
The Parachute Project
We see this project as a contribution to the global effort, called for by UNICEF, to understand the impact of the pandemic on children, the difference in experiences according to where children live, and to capture this data through children’s own voices. We will use artwork to represent and express the perspectives of marginalized and vulnerable children as they are affected by COVID-19.
The collection of artwork from across our world will unite us, cultivate solidarity, celebrate resilience, and are intended to promote a sense of connectedness among a global audience.
We will raise awareness of the community's experience of COVID-19 through art that is consoling, restorative, healing, and unifying across cultures and people. We celebrate resilience in moving forward towards recovery.
This global pandemic has been traumatizing for many as much about the world has surrendered to uncertainty and loss. As many are now equipped with vaccines, it remains hard to move forward as exhaustion, apathy and hopelessness have pervaded. How can we move our communities from stagnation to envisioning these experiences within a perspective of growth and resilience? How can we land safely after feeling so overwhelmed?