My name is Barbara Burke and I designed the logo for the Surviving Spirit. You may find the journey interesting. In as few words as possible, I would like to tell you how I got involved with Mike Skinner and the Surviving Spirit.
About 17 years ago, I was a professional, touring and recording musician as well as an artist. I had the pleasure of having Mike Skinner as the manager for my band, Powerglide. He was a force to be reckoned with; a successful, respected man in the industry. Aside from his arduous and tireless commitment and effort for our band, his vision and willingness to pursue uncharted territory was unmatched as was his integrity and character — rare in the music business.
Things changed for all of us unexpectedly when the band broke up and then Mike’s personal life took a drastic turn, one that included memories of sexual abuse, post traumatic stress syndrome, and eventually the loss of his family, his financial security, and possibly his identity in the community. I supported Mike then and I never wavered in my belief in his ability to make something exceptional out of this tragic situation. Among that ‘something’ is the Surviving Spirit — aptly named for a will that took the ashes of despair and created a voice for countless people who never had an ally or a right to be heard. His music has inspired and touched the lives of so many who see themselves in every word. His willingness to come forward as an advocate for a taboo subject at great personal price is simply the bravest and most courageous triumph of spirit I have personally known.
While Mike was experiencing a personal shift (to say the least), simultaneously my life was about to take a change that I was neither prepared for nor expecting. Simply put, after the band broke up I opened my own art studio — a long time dream I held. Soon after this, I started feeling ill and learned that I was exposed to massive amounts of numerous toxic heavy metals (from a silver manufacturer above my studio) that entered my brain and started to take a toll on my physical well being. Slowly, during 13 years of progression due to this exposure, I started to lose neurological function one limb at a time. I am now in a wheelchair and have no function of my arms or hands. I can longer draw or play the piano, both of which defined me, so I thought. It seems that my challenge, though different in nature, paralleled Mike’s life’s change.
He wrote me of his intention to create a venture devoted entirely to overcoming abuse, mental health issues and the stigma attached to them. This organization would ignite the expression of hope through the creative arts. I was overjoyed at the thought! When the chance came to contribute somehow to Surviving Spirit, I jumped at the chance to design a logo. Though I can no longer draw or paint physically, I have a body of artwork from my days on the road with the band and a computer. I scanned in some of my paintings and created variations of the logo incorporating them.
When thinking of a theme to sum up a Surviving Spirit, my first thought was of images of birds in flight — soaring above with total abandon and freedom.
There is an artist named Frank Howell who is known for his native art images- some of which contain ravens with their wings bound. These images evoke the feeling of complete and utter oppression that a physical or emotional trauma can create. “Release the strings that bind and simply take off” is what I wanted to convey, as it sums up what the Surviving Spirit stands for. Birds have been a huge part of my life and especially now, when I am lonely, just watching them for hours in my backyard revitalizes and lifts my spirit. I hope this feeling comes through in the bird images in the logo. Though I have no use of my hands, I can still type and draw and design with my Big Toe. So, through the efforts of my Big Toe, I experienced the uplifting feeling of creating once again! This has revived my spirit after years of feeling lost and without identity. So, my gift of the logo is really a gift to myself. How serendipitous that this was made possible by Mike. Full circle, indeed. It is with slight trepidation that I chose to tell my story to you. At first, it made me uncomfortable at the thought of what people would think of me in this new, diminished state. However, my hope is that my story inspires you all to press on and encourages you not to allow your identity to get wrapped up in a preconceived notion of what makes a person viable and valuable. I believe now, more than ever, that the triumphs we create and experience — no matter how small they seem — are truly the measure of our worth and purpose both to ourselves and each other. We all are blessed with the capacity to rewrite a seemingly tragic event into a story of inspiration and empathy for everyone around us. So, it is with great happiness that I invite each of you to spread your wings and take off in flight with joy and self abandon!