CULTURAL Identity & ART AS A HEALING MEDICINE
The mission of the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center is to bring hope and healing to the people of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes who are struggling with substance abuse. The center’s focus is to treat the disease and the whole person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In the approach to the renovation and expansion of the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center, the Design Team led by Blue Star Integrative Studio worked to understand how the existing building was failing to meet the needs of patients and staff, what improvements were required by code, and how holistic healing should manifest for the people seeking recovery and a new life at this facility. Multiple stakeholders participated in a conceptual design process that began with a dialogue about tribal identity, cultural values, and the vision for the project based on that identity and those values. This "first step" was crucial in helping the design-build team understand the culture, people, and place in the words and hearts of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people themselves. This also allowed a culturally responsive design to be brought to life that inspires healing and teaches the culture to those who may have become disconnected from their identity as Native American people. The goal was to support people who go through the 90-treatment program to empower them as human beings, as well as instill a renewed sense of pride in being Cheyenne and/or Arapaho.
The completed project represents a rare collaborative effort between Indigenous-minded designers, engineers, local medicine people and cultural wisdom keepers as well as general construction practitioners. The results of this coming together includes a "medicine mural", the building’s centerpiece and an active part of recovery and healing programs offered at the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center. The mural features a round medicine wheel window that faces to the east, representing the dawning of a new day, and the progression of a person from the darkness of addiction, to awareness, to learning and to purification and healing. Radiating out from there are sun rays washing over an abstracted Cheyenne and Arapaho village landscape near rivers and prairies, representing the ancestral ties back to the people and places - the backbone of the Nation.
PROJECT SHOWCASE: the Design for the Common Good International ExhibiT
On Friday, January 14, 2022 the Design for the Common Good International Exhibition opened at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, featuring 30 public interest design projects from 22 countries. One of those catalytic projects is the “Medicine Mural” at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center. There is a special tie to Denver and Colorado, as the lands are the aboriginal homelands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. They lived their lives there and in surrounding geographies before the encroachment of the U.S. Territorial government, which led to the tragic Sand Creek Massacre, signaling the removal of the Cheyenne and Arapaho to Oklahoma.
The exhibit’s “Medicine Mural” video features Cheyenne Chief and Cultural Artist, Gordon Yellowman, Sr., who conceptualized the mural and supervised the adaptation for constructability by Blue Star's Lead Design Architect and Founder, Scott Moore y Medina. The video also highlights the views, experiences, and wisdom of Winnie White Tail Mendivil (Director of the C&A Substance Abuse Program at G. Hawkins) and Katelynn Pipestem (Staff Counselor Technician and Art Therapist).
Image Credits: Sarah Allen
The exhibition tells the individual and collective stories of projects selected by the five international design organizations that comprise the Design for the Common Good network, showcasing how projects across the globe can share a profound connection to the social, economic, and environmental fabric of life when the local community and land are understood and meaningfully engaged. Design for the Common Good Network functions as an incubator and a compendium for best ideas, projects, practices, and education in the burgeoning realm of human-centered, public interest design.