Cultural Community Comes Together for Trauma & Overwhelm Workshop

It has been nearly one year since the pandemic shuttered cultural venues throughout the state.  A year of uncertainty and upheavalon top of personal loss and struggle. Yetin the midst of it all, artists and cultural nonprofits have continued to fuel our communities with voice and vision 

On February 10, 2021, a coalition of statewide partners presented Navigating Overwhelm, a free interactive workshop for all cultural grant recipients of the presenting organizationsThe coalition brought the convening forward in direct response to hearing of these mounting challenges of the toll taken on us as individuals and on our cultural nonprofits. 

The workshop was led by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, an expert in the field of trauma exposure. Laura is the founder and director of The Trauma Stewardship Institute and author of Trauma Stewardship and The Age of Overwhelm. Widely recognized as a pioneer in the field, she has worked locally, nationally, and internationally for more than three decades. Laura created a virtual space for discussion on practical tools to help us sustain — individually and collectively — in the face of trauma, secondary trauma, and overwhelm. 

The 250 attendees represented a diverse body of cultural workersFrom information gathered from those who registered, we learned that:  

  • Staff from cultural nonprofits represented 55% of registrants. 
  • 25% of registrants were artists. 
  • Registrants live across 58 cities and towns throughout each region of Washington state. 
  • Registrants were connected to 175 different organizations.   

The high level of engagement indicates the importance of recognition: how trauma and vicarious trauma related to the pandemic can manifest in our personal and work lives. And with the guidance from expertssharing a space among colleagues and peers to discuss how to manage overwhelm, can be a step towards healing. For those two hours, hundreds of cultural workers from across the state were able to engage in such a collective experience 

“I was feeling so overwhelmed that I almost didn’t come today, but I’m so glad that I did.”  

-Navigating Overwhelm participant

Presenting partners:  4Culture, Artist Trust, ArtsFund, ArtsWA, Hohimer Wealth Management, Humanities Washington, Laird Norton Family Foundation, Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, Northwest Film Forum, Office of Arts & Culture, and Seattle Foundation. 

To learn more about the Trauma Stewardship Institute, please visit:

Header image: Levi Bare on Unsplash.