A Curriculum of Courage by Tracy Penfield

A Curriculum of Courage

Making SafeArt
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The founder of SafeArt, which focuses on creative expression to prevent and heal abuse and other traumas, discusses its genesis and methods in this debut educational guide.

The author begins her book with “Coming To,” her monologue about being “reborn” at age 30 by finally leaving her emotionally abusive husband, which is also the “story that led to the creation of SafeArt.” She came to realize that having the courage to take dance classes at 20 and then expressing herself through that discipline greatly aided her healing journey, a tactic that she now applies and expands on via SafeArt’s various arts-focused workshops and activities. In this guide, Penfield (co-editor: On Our Way: An Anthology of SafeArt Writing, 2000-2010, 2016, etc.) discusses her organization’s key principles. They include the need to trust one’s gut instincts regarding abusive situations and to be accountable in responding to them, which means taking responsibility and following mandated reporting procedures when a witness to abuse. She also touches on how the brain deals with trauma, drawing on scientific sources, and, in what constitutes the bulk of this volume, outlines the various “explorations” or arts activities that have proved effective for SafeArt. They include having workshop participants imagine and then draw the different compartments of their brains as a way to understand the responses that can happen in the face of abuse. Penfield deftly weaves an array of SafeArt participants’ works (poems, drawings, etc.) as well as many personal journal entries into her commentary, with several appendices of workshop outlines and tools as well as an additional resource list completing the book. She has created a lovely multimedia narrative that gently leads readers into SafeArt’s world, with its case-study stories and contributed illustrations serving as a mirror and testimony to the impact and value of this wonderful organization. The volume’s backmatter then presents practical takeaways for implementation. While some readers may prefer a more straightforward, blueprint approach, the exploratory nature of this work remains both appropriate to SafeArt’s mission and well worth the odyssey.

A book provides a beautifully rendered introduction to a remarkable healing initiative and a useful tool kit.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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