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On A Path Toward Healing

By Christine Hunschofsky, Mayor of Parkland, Florida

Last year, an unimaginable tragedy struck our community when a shooter entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people, severely wounding many and tormenting over 3,000 students and faculty. Following the initial shock and pain, city leaders were faced with a formidable question: what can we do to support the healing process of an entire community? Beyond Parkland, officials in neighboring Coral Springs and throughout Northwest Broward were facing the same question.

As City Hall searched for ways to help the community heal, we took notice of a new art therapy program that the Coral Springs Museum of Art launched as an immediate response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting. That program sparked the idea for Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art, a new project that taps into the community-building power of the arts.

I am not an artist. My background is in business and government, and while I have always appreciated the arts from afar, I’ve never felt I truly understood art enough to explain or describe its benefits. Many people are intimidated by the arts that for the same reasons, and we therefore often overlook their benefits, from helping people process complex feelings to bringing communities together over something positive and productive. In today’s day and age, we get so disconnected from each other and it’s important that we find the things that bring us together, that remind us of what we have in common.

The purpose of The Power of Art is to bring our community together through the process of art making – creating opportunities for conversation, compassion and growth. The beauty of this curated series of five temporary public art installations is that you don’t have to have any prior arts experience to participate.

The artworks themselves are meant to be beacons of hope that inspire dialogue and change. The first installation will be David Best’s Temple of Time, constructed with families, community groups and residents. The piece, opening on February 14th, will serve as a place where those who are grieving can come to reflect and, hopefully, begin to leave a small piece of their pain behind. This Temple will not just be for the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, but also it will honor those who are hurting in Sutherland, Texas, Las Vegas, Nevada, and every community that has been impacted by gun violence.

While there is more than one path to heal, the ultimate goal is to help community members find solace in a way that works best for them. Through The Power of Art, I have come to better understand the arts as a positive force for bringing communities together. Public art projects like this serve as an important reminder that there is always more to unite than divide us, particularly as we embark on our shared journey of resilience.

The City of Coral Springs, in partnership with the City of Parkland, is a winner of the 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge which provides grants for free, temporary public art pieces. Learn more about the Public Art Challenge here.