“This is why I get up every morning. The impact Healing Icons® has on the lives of cancer survivors has kept me engaged and passionate over the past 20 years. For me, the creation of Healing Icons® is very personal. When I was 10, I lost my 6 year old brother to brain cancer. It was a devastating loss for me and my family. Over many years, I found that the visual arts provided the language I needed to heal, but making art alone was not enough. My healing journey took me across the world studying Mexican death traditions, Jungian psychology, Tibetan mandalas, and expressive writing. Healing Icons® weaves together my life experiences and professional art techniques into an interdisciplinary approach, using art as the vehicle to promote healing to those whose lives have been impacted by cancer.”
Once upon a time there was a little girl who had experienced much loss. She lived in a family and within a society that did not discuss their feelings openly, so she was left alone to try to understand her feelings of loss, of God, and why people die. Death first crept into her life as a ten-year-old, when her six-year-old brother died of brain cancer. They all wore white to the funeral to symbolize rebirth, but no one talked about any of it – not her Mother, not her Father…no one. The little girl would pull the bed-covers over her head, curl up in a tight ball and cry alone.
Four years later, she found herself curled up in this same tight ball, crying alone and not wanting to talk to anyone. She had been at a high school dance, and several of her friends had been waiting outside in the parking lot for several of their best friends to arrive. As she and her friends talked and laughed outside, waiting in their new dresses, anticipating the romance of the evening, the news arrived that there had been a car accident. Suzy had been killed. The little girl began to cry. There must be a mistake. This can’t be true. It was and again no one wanted to talk about it. She cried for days and locked her sadness deep inside.
Years passed and the girl went to college and fell in love with a wonderful man. She and this wonderful man married and had children…her life was truly filled with love. She still felt a deep sadness and carried with her a melancholy and heavy heart. As grew her family, so did her life, and the little ten-year-old girl found that she had grown up and become – in addition to a wife and mother – a prolific visual artist. The hours she spent creating left her alone with her thoughts and memories. It took many, many years, but one day she realized that the art she made had helped her fill the hole in her heart.
Wanting to teach others this way of healing through making art, she developed an art class that shared what she had discovered in her studio. Sadly, he had trouble finding people who were interested in this path to healing. One day a friend whose career was in public health was moved to speak to her. She told the artist, “You need to call our cancer center. They need you.”
The artist was very nervous about calling a big hospital. Would they think she was crazy? An art class for healing the emotional wounds of cancer patients? She picked up the phone anyway. The vice president of the hospital did not laugh. This caring man introduced her to a nurse who believed in the importance of expressing inner turmoil. Together the nurse and the artist began to do their work at this cancer center.
The artist began to meet courageous men and women who were reevaluating their lives because of this life-threatening disease. Through determination and self-reflection, these cancer survivors began to dig deep within their souls to transpose their darkness. Creativity helped them in ways they could never have imagined. Trusting the process of making art continued to amaze her. Little did this artist know that the childhood pain she had carried with her throughout her life would enrich who she was as a wife, a mother, and most of all as a teacher. This artist feels deep gratitude to Art, who has led her places she never expected to travel and who has helped her as well as many other people to uncurl from their tight little balls and tell their stories through Art.
As her passion for arts as healing grew, the artist, Heidi Darr-Hope, decided Healing Icons® needed to become a 501(c)3 non-profit, and it did on February 18, 2009. Her community honored her for her work by presenting her with the 2011 Elizabeth O’Neil Verner Award – the governor’s highest awards in the Arts. That same year she received another award. This one was from The Palmetto Center for Women. The 2011 Twin Award in Health and Wellness. This distinguished honor, Tribute to Women in Industry, has been given annually to women whose outstanding achievements mark them as leaders and role models in business and in the community.