Surviving Through Art

Candyce Brokaw is a survivor. Making art helped her surmount terrible traumas. Turning outwards to help others was next and the Survivors Art Foundation (SAF) was born. Now fourteen years strong, Brokaw heads the non-profit organization she founded and extends her virtual hand to anyone who wishes to take it.

“Making art saved my life,” Brokaw says of her art-making introduction nearly two decades ago. “It’s great to heal yourself and others at the same time.”

SAF is an Internet-based organization that operates on generosity and will. The group sponsors art exhibitions and artistic projects for members who have survived a trauma and is staffed by volunteers who live around the world.

Brokaw’s now a professional artist classified as an outsider, self-taught and visionary artist. She’s exhibited in Russia, Austria, France and across the US.

Her art began with drawings on index cards and recently moved to towering murals in the Bronx. These works were made in the Hayden Lord Mosaic Art + Organic Garden. The revitalization project includes outreach by Dream Yards, Atom Clanfarani, Bronx Pro Real Estate Mgt and SAF.

Organization collaborations are crucial for SAF, Brokaw said. Splitting project costs and combining art-viewing audiences extends everyone’s reach, she explained. Togetherness translates into additional exhibitions and community-based projects that don’t remain dreams.

SAF has experienced many shining moments; like receiving recognition and having the SAF online gallery archived by the Computerworld-Smithsonian program. SAF was recognized for its “impact on humanity through the arts,” said Brokaw. Other pinnacles include projects with the US Army, the United Nations and the National Mental Health Association on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Bronx-based mural project with kids making garden mosaics is a recent point of pride, Brokaw said. So is a documentary-in-process on SAF by Snowflake Productions.

SAF sprang from Brokaw’s conviction that art could buoy survivors. Its mantra is “Healing through Art…Art through Healing.” Art making and having the art viewed are important to healing, Brokaw said. Acknowledging the art also acknowledges the trauma and efforts to recover, she said. SAF is open to anyone with any type of trauma.

Each summer, SAF holds art exhibitions on the East End. The 6th Annual Outsider Art in the Hamptons Exhibition remains on view through September 6 at Galerie BelAge in Westhampton Beach. The 2nd Annual “Un-Hamptons Outsider Art Exhibit—North Fork Edition” is on view from August 3-28 at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Greenport.

Both shows feature artwork presented through SAF, Fountain Gallery and Pure Vision Arts; Fountain Gallery represents artists with mental illness, Pure Vision Arts presents artists with disabilities.

The work Brokaw performs through SAF stems from her belief that the world becomes a little brighter and personal pain can lift, even if only for a moment, for artist participants.

“Artists feel validated that people appreciate their work,” Brokaw said. “Exhibiting their work also gives them a voice to speak out and overcome a trauma or disability.”

For more, visit survivorsartfoundation.org and visionary-art.net.

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.