Second Annual ClownTown Healing Fest delivers message of healing, prevention

Carl Hammerschlag and John Glick lead a panel, "Aging and Saging," about the acceptance of loss and embracing peace of mind Saturday. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)

The second annual ClownTown Healing Fest delivered a message of healing and preventative healthcare at the Herberger Theater Center.

From Feb. 24 to 26 residents and clowns converged to discuss personal wellbeing and experiences with healthcare.

“The vision of the ClownTown Healing Fest is to promote health and healing in community,” said Hayley Shapiro, executive director of the fest. “We really believe we heal better in communities, so what we’ve tried to do here is create a space where different people can come and tell their stories.”

The fest included panels on both physical and mental health, as well as workshops that allowed participants to partake in yoga, dance, clowning and healing circles. Exhibitors including ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Trans Queer Pueblo and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center also participated.

Erika Patterson painted faces at the ClownTown Healing Fest. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)
Erika Patterson painted faces at the ClownTown Healing Fest. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)

A goal of the fest was to initiate a conversation about engaging in preventative practices.

Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, a psychiatrist and the founder of ClownTown Healing Fest, said he hopes to help people take better care of themselves.

“What we’re doing here is trying to remind people how they can become the agents in their own healing, and you don’t have to wait to get sick before you get well,” Hammerschlag said. “In the contemporary healthcare … it’s an illness-based model that is not only not promoting good health but is prohibitively expensive … We need to inspire people, to connect with them, in heartfelt, meaningful ways that inspire them to imagine that they really can take steps on their own behalf. This is the future of healthcare.”

To break down barriers when it comes to discussing healthcare, Shapiro said, clowns proved to be a good way to connect with people. She said a clown’s humorous nature provides a more inviting atmosphere.

“I just often think of Patch Adams’ quote, ‘The clown’s nose is a passport into someone’s heart.’ And it truly is. It makes it easier to connect with people, and I think that’s a tool that we can use really in any arena of our life, but particularly in healthcare when we want people to feel better,” Shapiro said.

"For me it started years ago when I was sixteen. I first traveled to the Amazon Jungle ... with my grandfather, Carl Hammerschlag, who is the founder of the ClownTown Healing Fest and we set up their mental health clinics. And really, clowns and healthcare really do go hand-in-hand," Hayley Shapiro said. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)
“For me it started years ago when I was sixteen. I first traveled to the Amazon Jungle … with my grandfather, Carl Hammerschlag, who is the founder of the ClownTown Healing Fest and we set up their mental health clinics. And really, clowns and healthcare really do go hand-in-hand,” Hayley Shapiro said. (Katelyn Finegan/DD)

The fest was not limited to healthcare; many of the panels focused on spiritual wellbeing. One panel, “From Aging to Saging,” led by Hammerschlag and Dr. John Glick, delved into coming to terms with loss.

Hammerschlag said aging is “nature’s way of taming the ego,” and people should not lament what they lost due to age but embrace life as it is.

One attendee, Deborah Stryker, shared her story of personal loss during “Aging and Saging,” saying she felt drawn to the event due to its timing.

“Tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of my daughter’s passing. She was killed in an accident in Portland, Oregon, seven years ago … this was a choice for me to go to a deeper level of my understanding,” Stryker said.

“There’s a lot of diversity,” Shapiro said. “There are a lot of people who might not necessarily be in the same place had something like this not brought them together, and so that’s what I think community is: When something draws you, or you feel drawn to do something and then you find yourself among other people who have felt the same way … that’s community.”

Contact the reporter at Katelyn.Finegan@asu.edu.