BALM: Cultural Arts & Healing Residency Program

A 12-month initiative whose principal aim is to advance community well-being and recovery from trauma through public ritual and cultural arts.

The use of ritual, ceremony, music, movement, art, creative expression, storytelling, somatic practice, and cultural custom to help heal not just individual wounds, but also traumas inflicted upon the larger, social body is as old as humanity itself. Yet, in North American culture, the combination of cultural arts and healing to support collective resiliency and renewal is relatively new as a field of practice. More commonplace are healing models that focus on improving individual health and well-being in institutional settings. These healing models, while necessary, are not sufficient to address the magnitude of impacts caused by crises like COVID-19, school shootings and racism. They need community-based complements that foster healing in community settings – in the places where harm happens and among the peoples whose safety and well-being are most frequently imperiled.

BALM is an effort to bring healing work into the public square through shared rituals and curated cultural arts experiences. Its central component is the development of a trained corps of artists and culture bearers who use various ritual forms and arts practices to weave community in the presence of pain, co-creating public spaces where grieving, healing, dreaming and well-being are collectively centered. Corps members or residents share their “medicines” in community settings via neighborhood events and art and healing pop-ups held in high density and visibility locations like schools, area parks and trailways, recreational centers, bus shelters and local hangouts. In this way, BALM makes healing experiences more accessible to community residents and helps to popularize community-based arts and healing practices. Underlying this work are four key objectives:

To grow the lineage of artists and culture bearers capable of integrating healing modalities into social transformation efforts and community crisis response;

To create cultural “medicines” at the intersection of art, creative expression and community healing;

To normalize and socialize healing in places where community traumas have gone largely unaddressed; and

To build the community healing field of practice.

To learn more about BALM: Cultural Arts & Healing Residency Program, email