WHAT IS THE WELCOME
In August 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosted a two-day meeting to discuss science, policy, and practice related to the behavioral health challenges of children who have been adopted and their families. SAMHSA found that parents experience many challenges in finding support for the myriad behavioral health issues of their adopted children. Likewise, parents can feel unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with these concerns. Family-driven and youth-guided care are critical components to consider when approaching discussions around adoption services and supports.
Our adoption story isn’t traumatic, but we experience post-adoption challenges ranging from behavioral, financial, social, educational and mental. Finding a safe place to discuss issues related to adoption can be difficult because most people do not understand the additional stress of international adoption. During the pre-adoption process, we researched all the unique challenges of raising an internationally adopted child. We wrestled with the nature/nurture questions. We continually seek the help of professional advice and balance the help from caring friends and family. Yet, after all the help, our family still struggles.
Well-meaning advice can be unhelpful and condescending. There are professional resources but they all come with a hefty financial burden and time commitment. Focusing on meeting the needs of the adopted child, often the primary caregivers are left to deal with the chaos left behind. When you see your child struggling, you make adjustments to your own behavior to help correct your child’s behavior.
Artists are extremely sensitive to their environment so to deal with my personal struggles I began to paint profusely. I found comfort and peace as I used my creative energy as personal therapy. I went to my studio and painted about how much money therapy cost, constant defiance/disobedience, fear of getting hurt, shame when I lost control, embarrassment, cultural differences, anger, condescending remarks, medication, police reports, family health, etc. My studio is open to the public. As viewers looked at the dozens and dozens of pineapple paintings, they started to inquire about the reason I was painting so many pineapples. As I talked about my connection with pineapples and my struggles with adoption, I found a support system. Not only was I able to educate my audience, but I was able to offer comfort for their own struggles.
Why the pineapple? After I painting 30+ pineapples, I realized there must be a deeper meaning for me. Researching the pineapple and its role in our culture, I learned it is a symbol of friendship and hospitality. Due to the healing properties of the Bromelain enzyme, it has also come to represent health and healing. Painting the different aspects of the pineapple from the prickly outside, the sweet inside, the crown, the color palette, healing qualities, friendship and decay symbolized different challenges of adoption including hospitality, sweet moments, rough outsides, storms, expectations, failures, disappointment, and emotional/mental/spiritual healing.
Pineapples are a perfect metaphor for raising awareness to the challenges of post-adoption in children from other countries because they are a safe and fun symbol to start respectful conversations about a social, political, economical and spiritual topic. Talking about how adoption can affect the family in a respectful and safe environment allows families to work through tough issues.
Welcome Pineapple Project has three main goals:
Karen Ahuja will create a new portfolio of innovating and experimental art that visually represent the post-adoption challenges from the viewpoint of a family with an adopted child. The seven new paintings will push the traditional painting method by using new techniques like dry pigment, mixed media, resin, non-traditional substrates. Karen Ahuja has been painting pineapples since 2016. She will use her past successes to create a new large format pineapple paintings that best communicate the 7 biggest challenges from her own international adoption experiences. Her pineapples have become more abstract in nature but the collection will range from pineapples that have impressionistic styles to abstract expressionism.
The WPP collection contains several metaphorical themes. First, the number seven is important because it symbolizes completeness. Although seven paintings are not enough to share the whole story so the last painting will be left unfinished as a metaphor that every parent will have different challenges. The viewer will be encouraged to use paint pens to mark on the painting which is a metaphor that the community’s support is the key to helping adoptive families through the challenges. Second, the seven paintings will be 60 inches feet tall so they are almost as big as the viewer. The size symbolizes the overwhelming impact on the family when the issues are ignored. Finally, the different qualities of the pineapple can be a metaphor for post-adoption issues. For example, the prickly outside symbolizes the pain of rejection or when you have to call the police on your own child.
The collection of Welcome Pineapple paintings have a strong presence. They invite the viewer to ask more about the story behind the pineapples. Sharing the story that inspired the paintings builds an understanding of the challenges of international adoption. Words can tell the story and lay the base for understanding and connecting to the images. Sharing the process of the creation of the painting allows viewers to understand the symbolism and struggle of the creating artist. The power of combining story and images is creating a platform that allows positive change to occur and encourages others to become involved in the movement.
WPP encourages collaboration across multiple disciplines. The collaboration is extraordinary because both creative minds are struggling with the same post-adoption issues in their own lives. Karen Ahuja and Chonda Ralston will use words and images to create a powerful instrument to document the Welcome Pineapples.
The Welcome Pineapple story will be told in a high quality “coffee table” art book and an affordable magazine option. The publications are 40-page four-color gloss books plus cover. The publication will contain five key components including the Ahuja adoption story, images of the pineapple paintings, the inspiration behind the painting and art techniques and future goals. The first production run to be on a hundred 12 x 12 coffee table books and one hundred 9 x 12 magazines. Each coffee table book will retail for $100 and the magazine will retail for $15. The profit from the cost of the book will go to the Ozark Guidance Foundation to provide services to adoptive families who can not afford therapy or counseling.
WPP is a social platform for discussing international adoption issues. The feature presentations will showcase the new Welcome Pineapple art collection. The first feature presentation will be the book launch at Karen Ahuja Studio which is free to the public. The artist and the writer will be at the event for the book signing. It will be the first public engagement to showcase the paintings and books. Funds from book sales will be donated to the Ozark Guidance Foundation for adoptive families who can’t afford therapy.
The premiere feature presentation will be for the exhibition of the Welcome Pineapple paintings. The exhibition will be free and open to the public at a venue with handicap accessibility. The artist and writer will be at the event to discuss the project, promote the book sales, and encourage the community to support the adoptive community. The goal of WPP is to encourage families to seek help, find a way to channel the stress, build a stronger community of support and understanding.
Through art and community, the Artistic Innovation grant is building a platform for education, engagement and positive change for adoptive families. WPP believes that art affects positive social change. The Artistic Innovation grant is the seed to continuing conversations. Through the success of the new collection of artwork, publications and feature presentations, other organizations can invest in the WPP to continue the momentum for helping the adoptive community.
I WANT TO SUPPORT THE WELCOME PINEAPPLE PROJECT!
The purpose of the Welcome Pineapple Project (WPP) is to raise awareness of the post-adoption challenges of international adoption. When you purchase a 5 x 7 Welcome Pineapple, 100% of profits go to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Each Welcome Pineapple is printed by CG Proprints who is providing a reduced cost to print for this collaborative effort. We are excited to engage in the adoption community and provide a way to raise funds for adoption needs.
Karen is the founder of Welcome Pineapple which raises awareness of the challenges of international adoption. After producing hundreds of pineapples, she realized that the pineapple was a safe symbol to start conversations about the issues unique to adoption. Using the profits from the sales of pineapple paintings, the Welcome Pineapple is able to help organizations raise funds to help adoptive families who can not afford therapy or counseling. The Welcome Pineapple book will be published in the spring of 2019.