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Healing Power of Joplin’s Butterfly Garden & Overlook Depicted in New Film

A new documentary profiles efforts to provide healing for Joplin’s tornado-stricken city. The release of “Butterfly Angels” falls on the sixth anniversary of the storm.

The seven-minute film shows how many from Joplin and the surrounding area conceptualized and created a green space and a healing garden to help citizens deal with the trauma inflicted by the tornado. It was produced by Stoneworth Studios with the TKF Foundation.

Butterfly Garden and Overlook
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU
One of the items inside the Butterfly Garden and Overlook.

161 people were killed after the tornado swept through the city on May 22, 2011.

The Landscapes of Resilience Butterfly Garden & Overlook opened three years ago at Cunningham Park. Drury University students designed and built the garden with a grant from the TKF Foundation and various community partners. Drury architecture professor and co-lead project designer Traci Sooter said the objective was to offer a welcome space for healing and reflection.

“The Bufferly Garden and Overlook has many, many layers of symbology and sentiment,” Sooter said. “So the TKF Foundation has four elements that are in all of their Open Spaces, Sacred Places; and that’s the portal, the path, the destination and the sense of surround.”

It depicts outlines of homes representing those destroyed by the tornado, with a water feature, butterfly pavilion, and water wall displayed within the structures.

In the film, former Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean talks about how butterflies came to symbolize comfort and safety, especially for children, after the tornado.

“Joplin embraced that butterfly,” she said.

View the documentary here.

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