I am the proud parent of a 9-year old, adopted through the foster care system in 2018.I am also an artist who experiments with storytelling. My creative practice is exploratory, but it is rooted in drawing and writing. My projects take myriad and hybrid forms – utilizing animation, sound, cartooning, printmaking, performance, and book arts. In recent years, my work has become more overtly autobiographical, inspired by the literary forms of memoir and the personal essay.
I am currently an Associate Professor of Film Studies at Keene State College, but my teaching experience began two decades ago when I was an AmeriCorps member in Providence, RI. I worked with a local non-profit organization to provide free arts education programs on the south side of the city. After I finished my year of service, I joined the organization’s staff and helped administer the AmeriCorps program for the next two years.
In 2009, inspired by research I conducted into oral storytelling traditions, I approached Loren Spears of the Tomaquag Museum and the Nuweetoun School, in Exeter, RI. I proposed working with her and her students to adapt a traditional Narragansett tribe story into an animated film. Her students at the one-room Nuweetoun School, one of the only schools for indigenous children on the east coast, were in grades K-8. Loren created an integrated arts curriculum that tied our animation project to other areas of the children’s learning, like geography and natural science. Our final short film, How Birds Got Their Song, screened nationally, most notably at the Museum of the American Indian in New York.
ADOPTION STORIES marks another expansion of my commitment to community-based, collaborative storytelling projects. My role in the project will be to co-facilitate interviews and oversee the technical aspects of sound recording, design, and editing.
Tamara Evanson, LICSW
I am a clinical social worker/psychotherapist with a deep appreciation for the power of the personal narrative. Over the years as a clinician in a variety of roles such as DCF Child Protection Social Worker, School-based Clinician, private practitioner, and now, in my current role as Family Support Services clinician with Easterseals Vermont, I have long admired the power of the story.
During my master’s program internship, I partnered with the University of Vermont (UVM) to promote Family Group Conference (FGC) as a social service approach. FGC provided a means to elevate and promote the family’s collective knowledge and wisdom in child protection matters, and as such, increased optimal outcomes for children in foster care. I then wrote a book (story) about FGC as a tool to enhance understanding of this approach. A Plan for Tyrone (2009), the rights to which, in perpetuity, have been donated to American Humane to support their humanitarian work, was then distributed worldwide as part of the organization’s efforts to increase the use of family-centered practices.
One of the most poignant memories I have from my earlier work is that of a group that I was facilitating for youth who were in a pre-adoptive foster home and/or who had recently been adopted. The group members determined that they wished to create life books as a means to document their individual journeys. However, none of the children had in their possession, nor did they have access to, any photographs of their early childhood. What they did have, and what clearly mattered the most, was the capacity to craft and subsequently internalize a cohesive narrative of their life. They told their stories in book form and drew versions of themselves from infancy forward…and then looked into the future to connect to the dreams that they held for their future adolescent and adult selves. It is through story that we derive hope and optimism.
As a psychotherapist, I frequently support clients while they examine and sort out various life events in order to identify how best to integrate those experiences into the larger story that represents their life. And as an adoptive parent I am often asked, “Momma, tell me the story of ME again!” It is through the development of a cohesive narrative that all human beings access their own identity, find meaning and connection, and cultivate understanding, empathy, and compassion.
ADOPTION STORIES represents the healing power within each of us to weave our life experiences into a cohesive story that honors and reflects our genuine true selves. My role in this project will be to co-facilitate interviews, and provide therapeutic support and self-regulation strategies to increase children’s sense of safety and security should they feel overwhelmed by proximity to their individual traumas or experiences.