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Art as a Tool for Empowerment for Adoptees and Former Foster Youth with Nicole Rademacher - Ep 116

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 10/23/2023

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"I spend a lot of my life, and even through my art, just looking for belonging." - Nicole Rademacher

Join us as we delve into the world of art therapy and adoption with guest Nicole Rademacher. Discover how Nicole uses art to heal on her own journey as an adoptee, and explore her upcoming project, "We Are Not Our Cruxes," that aims to empower adoptees and former foster youth.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Discover the healing power of art therapy and how it can help adoptees do deeper work on their adoption trauma.

  • Explore the complexities of transracial adoption and how it shapes an adoptee's identity through the lens of art

  • Find out about "We Are Not Our Cruxes," Nicole's interactive, hybrid art project for the adoption constellation, starting on November 18, 2023 in Los Angeles and online.

My special guest is Nicole Rademacher:

Nicole Rademacher is an accomplished transcultural adoptee artist and art therapist based in Los Angeles. With a deep understanding of adoption trauma and personal experience as an adoptee, Nicole has dedicated her work to using art as a means of healing and self-exploration. Through her adventurous artistic creations and art therapy, she helps individuals tackle their nonverbal and often suppressed pain, offering them a safe space to express and process their emotions. Nicole's upcoming project, "We Are Not Our Cruxes," is a series of free, interactive, art-based healing events which is launching in November 2023 in the Los Angeles area and online. These events will provide participants with a unique opportunity to deepen their understanding of adoption while engaging in a transformative art therapy process. With her extensive expertise and compassionate approach, Nicole joins host Beth Syverson on Unraveling Adoption to share her insights and shed light on the power of art therapy in the journey towards healing.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:


Explore the complexities and challenges of transracial adoption -
Transracial adoption brings with it multifaceted challenges, as Nicole Rademacher, a biracial adoptee, elucidates. Adoptees often grapple with their racial identity and struggle to conform to expected societal norms and categorizations. Support from adoptive families in celebrating the adoptee's birth culture and maintaining a sense of identity is crucial, assuring adoptees that they're not confined by their racial backgrounds but can embrace all facets of their identity.


Experience the healing and empowering effects of art therapy -
Using art as therapy provides adoptees with an empowering platform to express their emotions and experiences. Nicole Rademacher's upcoming project "We Are Not Our Cruxes" incorporates art-based healing events for adoptees and former foster youth to aid in their healing process. By acknowledging their resilience and emphasizing that their identity and experiences aren't solely shaped by trauma, art helps participants foster a positive perception of self, resulting in a sense of empowerment.

Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:01:29 - Early Childhood and Adoption
Nicole shares her adoption story, explaining that she was born in 1978 and immediately placed in foster care. She was adopted into the Rademacher family in Milwaukee and grew up in North Carolina. Nicole reflects on her mixed-race identity and the challenges of fitting in visually with her white adoptive family.

00:05:04 - Transcultural Identity
Beth asks Nicole about her identity as a transcultural adoptee. Nicole explains that she presents as white and often passes as such, but she also recognizes her biracial heritage. She discusses the complexities of racial identity and the challenges of fitting in with her adoptive family.

00:07:09 - Supportive Parenting
Beth emphasizes the importance of adoptive parents supporting their child's cultural identity and interests. She encourages parents to listen to their adoptee's desires regarding exploring their birth culture and to be flexible and understanding. Nicole agrees and emphasizes the need for adoptive parents to be open-minded and supportive.

00:09:38 - Reunion and Family Dynamics
Nicole shares that she reunited with her birth parents in 2004 and discovered that they had married each other, and she had two younger brothers. She reflects on the complex emotions that arose during reunion.

00:13:12 - The Complexity of Family Relationships
The guest emphasizes that having a familial connection does not automatically guarantee a strong bond. She shares her personal experience of searching for belonging and finding it through her art and living abroad.

00:13:40 - Embracing Foreignness
The guest talks about her experiences living in different countries as a foreigner and how it allowed her to explore her sense of belonging. She highlights the freedom that comes with not fitting into societal norms.

00:14:42 - Serendipitous Love Story
The guest shares how she met her husband in Chile while doing research for her MFA. They were brought together by chance and their connection grew into a romantic relationship.

00:15:54 - From Architecture to Art
The guest reveals her early aspirations of becoming an architect and her transition to art school. She explains how her interest in photography eventually led her to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

00:18:24 - Exploring Identity through Art
The guest discusses her artistic process, which involves creating experimental videos and installations. She shares her journey of delving into the emotions surrounding her adoption and reunion through her art.

00:26:43 - The Embodiment of Singing
Nicole and Beth discuss how singing is a unique form of artistic expression because the instrument is within the singer's body. Nic also mentions her collaboration with her birth father, a symphony percussionist.

00:27:53 - Growing Up in a Pragmatic Household
Nicole reflects on her upbringing in a non-creative household and how she wishes she had grown up in a more artistic environment. She shares that her parents have always been supportive of her artistic pursuits.

00:28:57 - Overlapping Experiences of Belonging
Nicole talks about the overlap between the experiences of adoptees and non-binary individuals in terms of not feeling a sense of belonging. She explains how she became involved in LGBTQ+ spaces through her connections in the art world.

00:29:42 - "We Are Not Our Cruxes" Project
Nicole introduces her project, "We Are Not Our Cruxes," which aims to provide a space for adult adoptees and former foster care youth to share their struggles and create art as a form of healing. She explains the research component and invites people to participate.

00:35:27 - The Creative Corps Grant
Nicole announces that the project will be offered for free thanks to her receipt of the Creative Corps Grant from the California Arts Council. She encourages people to attend the events, either in person or online, and shares the bit.ly link for more information.