The Importance of the Arts in Crisis

My family has learned the importance of the arts in crisis.

We’ve just come through the Sonoma County fires and the arts helped.


arts in crisis, the importance of arts in crisis, Santa Rosa fires, children, dancing, singing, drawing, coloring, Mad LibsWhen you have six adults, five children, three cats and a dog evacuated from home for a week, you need anything you can get to ease the tension.

The children, in particular, needed the arts to process what had happened in their world.

What arts in crisis help?

Whichever art means the most to you.

For the little girls in our group, dancing relieved a lot of stress.

We’d managed to bring a CD player and the four girls went outside, plugged it in and danced.

Every day.

Sometimes at night, too. (We watched Sing one evening and they danced through the entire movie!)

They sang songs together every day and delighted when their grandmother joined in–singing and dancing!

They’d all been to VBS together and sang the songs of Jesus’ love–as a comfort and a shared experience.

Drawing and coloring

I purchased two drawing pads of paper, crayons and colored pencils at the local store when we finally evacuated to the beach.

The girls filled both with their drawings and pictures.

One artistic mother joined them one afternoon and they helped her draw, too.

The girls drew thank you notes for the kind visitors who brought us tasty meals–reducing one neighbor to tears of gratitude.

Art appreciation

arts in crisis, the importance of arts in crisis, Santa Rosa fires, children, dancing, singing, drawing, coloring, Mad LibsThis particular beach house had Audubon drawings on the walls and other interesting artwork.

One afternoon, I walked a little girl from picture to picture, discussing what she saw.

She had no trouble figuring out what the pictures represented.


While the house’s owner apologized for leaving all the outdoor furniture’s cushions on the living room floor, we were happy to see them.

The children slept on the cushions.

They turned them into forts, boats, slides, and houses.

The playacting went on every single day–sometimes even drowning out the relentless fire news.


While the rest of us had difficulty focusing on the books we brought or tried to read on our e-readers, the children did not.

They read Bible-related Arch books I brought from church.

Their mother/aunt read Mandie stories.

They looked at the few picture books we had and made up their own stories.

One night when everyone was tired of everyone, I unearthed a MadLibs pad.

We had to keep explaining what an adverb and adjective were, but the children happily came up with words.arts in crisis, the importance of arts in crisis, Santa Rosa fires, children, dancing, singing, drawing, coloring, Mad Libs

Everyone belly laughed when we finally read the silly one-page stories.

The outdoors in crisis

While sending children outdoors isn’t exactly art, walking and talking with them can become art.

We stayed near the beach and the children built sandcastles, gathered shells, danced with the waves and called to passing seals.

We were fortunate to be 45 miles from the Santa Rosa fires.

The clean air, the cold water, the scratchy sand entertained and kept the children healthy.

We’re very grateful to our relatives who let us explore the arts at their beach house in our time of crisis.

Back to school

The children (and one teacher aunt/mother) returned to school after two weeks.

While all our houses survived, many homes of our friends did not.

The school districts in Santa Rosa knew children need to process the trauma–whether they lost their homes or not.

They did math, of course, but that first week returned, they focused on the arts: music, singing, dancing, drawing, coloring.

One of our neighbor boys, a stoic seven, points out his bedroom window each night at the hills still golden around our housing development.

“How will we know if there is a fire in the night?” he asks his mother each bedtime.

What would you say if your child asked you?

“How about a story?”

The purpose of art

One of the purposes of art is to provide an emotional outlet.

arts in crisis, the importance of arts in crisis, Santa Rosa fires, children, dancing, singing, drawing, coloring, Mad Libs

The kitten and dog entertained, too.

Good art may challenge, but it also can comfort.

Why do children like to read the same picture book over and over again?

Why did our children have to listen to Adventures in Odyssey every night to fall asleep?

The familiarity, the rhythm, help.

The stories, music and the dancing allow for an emotional release–particularly for a child who doesn’t have words.

Our family is so thankful for the arts and how they helped our five Adorables process the terror of fleeing home when flames bore down or the police ordered us out.

Let’s sing, girls!

Let’s dance.

Draw me a picture, tell me a story.

We love you and we’re together.

That’s how the arts, the family and love help a child survive a crisis.

Thanks be to God.


Why are the arts important in a crisis? Click to Tweet

How music, drawing, playacting and singing helped children in the Santa Rosa fires. Click to Tweet

Coping with a crisis for children, using the arts. Click to Tweet




Leave a comment


  1. Anna

     /  November 21, 2017

    Very informative. Some good ideas for stormy days even when not having to leave! Thanks!

  2. Michelle Ule

     /  November 21, 2017

    That’s for sure, Anna. Have fun in the next rainstorm! 🙂

  3. Linda

     /  November 22, 2017

    Incredibly good

  4. Truly, art nurtures hope and redacts fear.

    Great post, Michelle.


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