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Empathy Through Art: How the “Pathos Project” Unveils Our Unique Experiences

Art can capture realities in a way that words sometimes can’t. The Pathos Project, a digital gallery curated by the Charles Schwab Abilities Network (CSAN) which features employee-submitted pieces, shows the power art has in showcasing the diverse identities and experiences of our people. During Disability Employment Awareness Month, these artwork submissions were presented under the banner of "Empathy Through Art" – a theme that not only provides us room for creativity, but also gifts us all the chance to explore and understand different perspectives.

We caught up with Wannie Z., a member of CSAN and one of the creators of the Pathos Project, and Lindsay W., one of the featured artists, to hear why this work matters and learn more about the important role that art can play in a person’s life.

Coming Together Around an Inspiring Idea

Wannie Z., a Sr Manager in Digital Product Management, sheds light on the inspiration behind this endeavor. She explains that "it's a passion project I started with another CSAN leader and volunteers from Research & Development and the NERD program."

The overarching concept, labeled "Empathy Through Art", was piloted to establish a safe space for employees to share and express their personal stories through a creative medium. Wannie emphasizes the power this initiative has in fostering empathy at Schwab, asserting that “reflecting and visualizing the meaning of the artwork through the artist’s perspective is a way to form a deeper connection in the workplace.”

The Personal Importance of Art

Lindsay W., a Manager in Communication Consulting and one of the featured artists in the Pathos Project, shares how she became involved in the initiative and details its newfound significance in her life. "I recently celebrated a milestone birthday that ended up being a highly reflective phase for me," she explains. "I decided that I was going to try new challenges and continue to push myself in ways that I hadn’t before. This artistic opportunity popped up in a perfectly timed way. It was a low stakes way to do something completely out of my comfort zone, but with a supportive group of folks looking to try their hand at expression through painting.”

For Wannie, exercising creativity allows her to find more meaning in life. "I love producing ideas that can help others. The Pathos Project is an example of that," she remarks.

Leaving a Lasting Impression

When asked what she wants people to take away from her art, Wannie explains that “my ability to transform ideas into something meaningful is more important than not being able to properly paint a skyline. The message I’d like everyone to take from my art is for them to be kinder to themselves and shine on their limitless abilities so that they can bring a smile to others.”

For Lindsay, this foray into art is marked by a desire to try something new, celebrate milestones, and capture her current phase of life. She ends with a message of encouragement to peers, emphasizing the value of self-expression and its positive effect on personal growth. "My feeble attempt at painting was a way for me to challenge myself. Takeaway: Try it, you might like it. And if others don’t, that’s ok too!"

As the Pathos Project continues to inspire empathy, it also serves as a testament to art’s ability to create understanding and connection among Schwab employees. Through this digital gallery, the realities of individuals come to life, forming a tapestry of experiences that invites us all to explore the beauty of diverse perspectives and experiences outside of our own.