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Unity Through Creativity Blog

The Magic of Co-Creating

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

The Magical Window Singing Tree Mural

What a joyful relief to gather in person at the Bioneers Conference after a two-year Covid hiatus. The focused, caring and visionary activists who came together strengthened our hearts in this tumultuous time. Bioneers' commitment for young people to play an active role in its gathering and programs is one reason I value this organization. Youth groups from Louisiana, Alaska, New York, California and Texas created the 108th Singing Tree mural. Even though they had never met each other before, they co-created a unique and powerful symbol in three days.

Making the mural together allowed the youth to process the impact of difficult and hopeful stories they heard in the plenaries, as well as their life experiences. The image inside the circular Magical Window is the place where humanity and nature are one, where rainbows and water begin, where the baby birds sing and leaves fly. It is surrounded by love and held by the phases of the moon.

After hearing the story of Ecuadorian indigenous forest protectors Nina and Helena Gualinga, who have stood against logging companies and oil companies, the students felt compelled to add tree stumps and oil to the painting. The courageous Gualinga sisters showed a video of a broken oil pipe spewing a stream of black liquid over the forested hillside of their sacred land. A caribou looks on, larger than the fountain of oil, yet still affected.

Some of the youth from Louisiana had lost two classmates to gun violence. They honored their friends whose lives were cut short in the birds below.

The head of the Bioneers Youth Program, Nature-based educator Will Scott of Weaving Earth, gave feedback to Unity Through Creativity's support of the young people at the conference:

"The gorgeous murals you all brought literally transformed the room. I honestly don't know if what happened in there would have been possible if the space hadn't felt so beautiful, inspiring and dynamically held by the murals that embraced it. Really. And then there's the gorgeous mural you painted! Incredible. Both the process and the end result added so much to the conference and the youth program as a whole. It was really a gift to have the art being made in real time in the space (and I know it wasn't always easy to pull that off!).

A deep bow of gratitude to you, your crew, and the amazing work you do."

Here's a short video of the joy of co-creating this project.

Facilitators of the Month

Unity Through Creativity Foundation will now be honoring our amazing facilitators each month. We begin by recognizing the enormous efforts of Leslie Rein (middle) and Diana Schiaretta (left) who have taken on a HUGE project. Leadership means facing uncertainty, inspiring trust and daring greatly. That's what Leslie and Diana are accomplishing at Shanel Valley Academy, a new, small charter school in Hopland, California.

The Singing Tree Facilitators are helping a brave group of educators, who have begun a STEAM, agricultural and project-based Learning Community in town that has been without an elementary school for 10 years. The student population is 35% Pomo, 35% Hispanic and 30% white. The school is completing their first year by making a 30 foot-long Singing Tree mural in a walk way. The Shanel Valley Academy Singing Tree of Community and Culture celebrates the return of their community school which is devoted to cultural inclusion and supporting every child. The 5th and 6th graders are the Lead Design Team for the project, inviting the younger grades, the staff, their families and community members. Unity Through Creativity is supporting the profound accomplishment of Shanel Valley Academy's first year with the all-inclusive mural project, inspired by the native oak tree. Leslie and Diana have driven over 200 miles each trip, going above and beyond in their devotion to co-creating the mural and touching the lives of the whole school community.

More Peace Leaders Are Needed

Our goal is to train 30 Facilitators in 2022. Co-heart #6 will certify Singing Tree Facilitators in a week-long training from July 18-22, both in-person (El Paso) and virtual. We're adding to the team of trained, creative Peace Leaders to combat the seemingly never-ending tidal wave of violence.

With the recent massacres and invasions, I'm racking my brain about how to prevent more wars and more heartbreaking murders of children and their teachers. My broken heart is devoted to trying to find answers. I'm sharing an opinion piece that I wrote for El Paso Matters - Peace Literacy is a Birthright to share tools and skills. There are many solutions needed. I'd love to hear your ideas, thoughts and feelings. We are in this together.

With Gratitude,



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