SAF In the News

Survivors Art Foundation

SAF In the News: Media Archives

August, 2000 — “Networking” magazine

Survivors Art Foundation Receives Computerworld Smithsonian Medal

By Laura Weir

The Survivors Art Foundation (SAF) was recently recognized for its contributions to helping, teaching and healing through the use of technology. SAF is an international not-for-profit foundation dedicated to encouraging individuals who have survived either physical or mentally traumatic life-altering events including rape, domestic violence, famine, war, AIDS, PTSD and cancer, to express themselves through art while opening a doorway to the world of technology. Candyce Brokaw, executive director of the Foundation was presented with the Computerworld Smithsonian Medal on April 3rd in Washington, D.C. The honor is in recognition of the Foundation’s impact on humanity through technology via its Internet Web-site Art Gallery which has become part of the Smithsonian’s Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology.’Ms. Brokaw, whose idea for the Foundation began when she discovered the Internet three years ago, could not believe the rapid and passionate response SAF received. The Foundation, which showcases works from survivors expressing themselves through art on its website art gallery, was almost immediately luring visual, literary and performing artists from 47 states and 20 countries. Brokaw heartily credits the Internet for the enthusiastic influx and the ultimate success of the Foundation.

As a rape survivor and an artist herself, Ms. Brokaw realized that her newfound Internet skills could be put to excellent use. Says Brokaw, “People need to realize that the Internet is not a negative thing, but can be used in very positive ways to really help people,” She relates that when she began using a computer, she was just like millions of people who are still very afraid of the technology. But with the help and encouragement of her husband, she learned how to type, use the Internet and scan her own artwork onto the computer. Before she knew it she was computer literate. That was when, Brokaw, a petite Brunette, started corresponding with people all over the world in support groups on the Internet. She met hundreds of other survivors and soon developed a network. Then she got an idea. With the help of her husband, she posted a website Art Gallery on a simple $140 Microsoft Front-Page program and was almost instantly flooded with e-mails and requests from people all over the country and all over the world who wanted to have their art showcased. From then on, Brokaw explains with much gratitude, it has been a full-time job for the Foundations’s world-wide network of volunteers to keep up with all the demands and more funding is positively crucial.

Back in April, when Brokaw was in DC accepting the Computerworld Smithsonian Medal, she got another idea. She and SAF’s outreach coordinator, Marietta Dantonio-Fryer, met with the Army Arts and Crafts Division and developed a prototype outreach project to take place this fall. The project is designed to help troubled or hard to reach young people express themselves in a productive and creative way. The Art outreach program will be immediately followed up with computer training. “Not everyone can make a living selling art,” say Brokaw. Participants will be encouraged to express themselves through many art forms including paintings, drawings, cartoons, photography and poetry and will then be taught how to scan their own artwork onto a computer eventually leading to, what is hoped to be, a technological awakening.

“They’ll be learning computers without even realizing it,” said Brokaw with a smile. The army outreach program is expected to ultimately expand to army wives and soldiers. The Foundation also hopes to bring the benefits of the marriage of art and technology into domestic violence shelters, inner city youth programs and prisons. According to Brokaw it is serving as “… a positive outlet for the survivor’s feelings through the arts, keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble, while additionally teaching valuable technology skills to later be built upon.” The project is expected to become more advanced as the participants become more interested and excited about learning marketable skills. However, even in its initial phase, the project, according to Brokaw, is a vital self-esteem building exercise for people in need of a boost. She rejects the self-defeating attitude that many people having about feeling “… inadequate or unskilled in the technological world.” She insists, “We need to change that and help everybody at least try to reach their full potential.”

The Survivors Art Foundation has come a long way from Brokaw’s living room. As a worldwide organization, based in New York, it has received awards and grants from some of the nation’s top industries. The Epson America Corporation is responsible for providing computer materials for the Foundation’s Internet Art Gallery and The SAFeKids Art Gallery. It has received grants from Pfizer, Inc. for many of its survivor projects including helping those with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to the Computerworld Smithsonian Medal, The Foundation has also received the 1999 “Chase SMARTS Grant” from Chase Manhattan Bank, the 2000 “Jump Start Grant for the Arts” and the 1999 “Grants for the Arts” from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Huntington Arts Council, Inc. re-grant program.

The Foundation is currently part of an exhibit at the United Nations cooperatively with UNIFEM and the International Women’s Museum. The exhibit is titled “Progress of the World’s Women.” The Foundation also has the works of three of its members on exhibit at the UN. These works, including “Progress of the World’s Women” were part of the opening ceremonies on June 5th with Secretary General Annan of the UN hosting the vent. SAF has additionally held exhibitions at Hofstra University, the prestigious US Artists Exhibit in Pennsylvania, “The Children’s Visions of the New Millennium Exhibition” at the United Nations and countless others.

In addition to is Internet Art Galley, SAF also provides out-reach projects for “at risk youth” and many different trauma populations in prisons, domestic violence shelters and worked with the Kosovo refugees last summer at Fort Dix.