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Sprinting strategies aren’t distance strategies.  What adjustments do we need so [that] we can keep going? 

On February 10, 2021, ArtsFund co-presented Navigating Overwhelm, a free interactive workshop led by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. A coalition of 11 statewide partners brought this convening forward in direct response to learning of the toll on individuals and cultural nonprofits from mounting challenges related to the pandemic. Outreach was extended to all cultural grant recipients of the presenting organizations that included artists, staff, and boards. 

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky 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 of trauma exposure, 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. 

“Without the physical connection to grieve and support, it’s just so much. Guilt, shame, and overwhelm is so interconnected.” or “The start of the pandemic was hard for me, all of my plans changed and living alone the isolation became so much more highlighted. To avoid the isolation, I pushed myself more than what I usually did, and I tend to push myself hard. 

More than 250 colleagues and peers from the cultural community statewide attended the two-hour workshop online. 56% of registrants were staff from cultural nonprofits and 25% of registrants were artists. Registrants represented colleagues and peers from the cultural community across each region of the state, gathering from 58 cities and towns. Overall, the convening reached 175 organizations. 

Engagement among attendees was high, indicating the importance of recognition: how trauma and vicarious trauma related to the pandemic can manifest in our personal and work lives. For two hours, hundreds of cultural workers from across the state were able to share space to discuss how to manage overwhelm. With the guidance from an expert, such a collective experience can be a step towards healing.  

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

To learn more about the Trauma Stewardship Institute, please visit: https://traumastewardship.com/  

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.