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Domestic Violence Effects Eased Through Art
Susan Meyers is using art to change lives. This University of Minnesota Duluth masters of liberal studies student is leading summer workshops in art therapy for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. "The classes are for women who have many hurdles to overcome," Meyers said. "By giving them the time and place to make art, they become empowered." The local community project is 'creating a journey into healing with art' which culminates at an art exhibit from September 14 - October 10 at the North End Arts Council of Superior (above the Red Mug) at 1323 Broadway in Superior, Wisc. An opening reception will be held on Friday, October 2 at 6 pm.
Meyers is leading open community workshops on selected Mondays throughout the summer at the North End Arts Council. She also leads sessions for women living in the CASDA Shelter in Superior.
Each week the class creates a new work of art. In one class Healing Postcards are created by writing a list of "I Can'ts" on paper. The exercise allows the women to face their fears. Then they tear the paper up, and assemble an artistic postcard. The messages about what the women were told they can't do are symbolically sent away on the postcards. In another class, stepping stones are made to indicate a new direction. "The women took a couragous leap and left their abusers," Meyers said. "They are choosing a journey and choosing freedom. The stepping stones are a physical way to examine which path they will try next."
Meyers said, "Making art is a "freeing" experience for the victims of domestic violence." She is documenting the experience for a thesis project. Even though it is a part of her degree program, Meyers feels strongly about advocating for women, especially because so many women are abused. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
"It's not easy to talk about abuse. These art sessions are a powerful way to break the silence," she said. "It's a way to heal. Using art is a way to get at buried emotions." Meyers said it is a process. "If a woman can identify her feelings and issues through an art project, it helps her move on and grow. If she can name what happened to her, she can stop herself from falling back into the same patterns. She can stop picking the same type of partners and repeating the abuse. It can help her start a new life."
Meyers is assisted by volunteer art therapy students from University of Wisconsin-Superior (UWS) and Jennifer Salo who graduated in 2007 with a masters degree in art therapy from UWS.
Between two and 14 people attend the sessions. The classes at the women's shelter have a different feel that the ones at the community center. Meyers said, "Living in shelter can be stressful. The women there have a lot of pressures aside from just leaving their homes and an abusive relationship. It's community living; they need to find work, and a new place to live." Meyers said her class is an opportunity to close the door to all of those hassels and focus on healing. "The art helps the women communicate topics that are tough to talk about."
Meyers says she hopes the project will inspire women in their search for a violence-free life. "No matter what situation someone is in, there is a way to make a positive change. The art classes are enjoyable as well as healing." For more information about the workshops contact Susan Meyers at 218-590-1651.
Written by Cheryl Reitan.
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