Shelter to Shelter

Submitted by Women's Wisdom Initiative

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Client: Women's Shelters across the US

Location: Berkeley, CA, United States

Completion date: 2013

Artwork budget: $1,500

Project Team

Artist

Caroline Lovell

Women's Wisdom Initiative

Artist

Juliette Nolan

Women's Wisdom Initiative

Overview

Shelter to Shelter was an 8000 mile trip across the United States that brought the Healing Arts Workshop entitled Traveling Postcards to over 100 women who live in safe houses. Shelter to Shelter draws attention to the persistent issue of domestic violence. Shelters are necessary to protect women and children who are trying to escape violence and their location must be hidden to the public, but the voices of resiliency and love that exist inside the shelters do not. We bring you the stories, the wisdom and the love of women who often must remain invisible.

Goals

Turning difficult spaces into healing spaces can be a powerful force for transformation. By creating a sacred space in which to hold a workshop- one that is filled with an abundance of beautiful art materials- you are creating the possibility to find the inherent beauty in all things. In our workshops, women find that they can appreciate their own unique beauty and have that beauty witnessed by their peers and by a global community of women who care. Allowing each workshop participant to be the creator and the decision maker increases her sense of belonging and responsibility. Each time she has the option to choose a shape or color and decide where to place it on her card, she is empowered. The turmoil of an emotional crisis that shatters your sense of self can create a very real need for expression. Art is an expressive lifeline. Trauma can actually open creative and expressive sensibilities that might be closed during times of stability. Healing comes from spontaneously creating new life from what begins as a blank postcard and turns into a beautiful portrait of one’s best self.

Process

Shelter to Shelter was an opportunity for every woman we met, to share her collective wisdom. From California to Wyoming, Kansas, Illinois, West Virginia, and Texas and beyond, my partner and I drove hundreds of miles each day, stayed in motels and campgrounds and then hosted workshops at 11 shelters in eleven states. Our hope was to reach women who are often isolated and who would be willing to share their stories of resiliency after recovering from years of abuse. Each safe house we visited provided housing, counseling, legal advocacy and education to their clients, many of whom are younger than 30. We interviewed every director and were happy to tour the facilities and learn as much as we could about their ongoing program needs. The Women’s Wisdom Initiative’s Transformative Arts Programs are designed to serve as a safe and powerful complement to a community’s existing crisis services. As an artist I have focused on using the creative process as a tool for personal growth and community awareness. I believe that by encouraging self-expression and global connections we can learn from our commonalities and create opportunities for everyone to become agents of change in their own community.

Additional Information

Slowing down and making something with our hands connects us to our hearts. Letting go of daily distractions helps anyone to open up to the creative process and the process of personal reflection. Even when resistance to the process is experienced, the workshop is simple enough to have every woman succeed. Strength comes from having a conversation or dialoging with the Traveling Postcard. Survivors can now ‘see’ her beauty and resilience. Many participants find relief in finding their truest selves this way; a self that can hold pain with both power and potential.