Giving Voice to the Impact of Environmental-Associated Trauma in Indigenous People Through Social Practice Art
Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land was a community engaged regional art exhibition that began as a mixed-method research project. The original purpose was to give voice to the stories of indigenous people living in uranium-contaminated regions of the Navajo Nation. It quickly expanded into a social practice art project, allowing for collaboration between individuals, artists, community members, and several different institutions. Participating artists attended a 4-day informational and interactive workshop about the uranium mining legacy, so that they fully understood contamination issues; the goal was for them to create art from an informed place. The investigators examined the psychological impact of the workshop and the exhibition on the artists as well as the community at large. We found that the greater the emotional impact on the artist, the greater their absorption while making the art and the greater their artwork creativity, as rated by objective evaluators. Community attendees reported increased knowledge about the issue, as well as feeling inspired to take action. Through engaging a community advisory council and artists and patrons on an intellectual, aesthetic, emotional, and compassionate level, we documented how this social practice art exhibition had an impact on our community.