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Art Exhibit Shares the View of Domestic Violence Survivors

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I am a doctoral student in the Department of Art Education at Ohio State University who specializes in Arts Policy and Administration. The focus of my study is in community development. I am very interested in how art can play a unique role in society as a means to promote social justice and social health.

For my dissertation study, I have been making art with female survivors of domestic violence who live in extreme poverty. All of them are the residents of a public housing facility for homeless people in Columbus, Ohio. I also wanted to introduce their stories to a larger community through their art, as a means to initiate civic discussions on the consequences of domestic violence.

The exhibit,"Window of Hope: Come and Share the View," held at Fresh A.I.R. Gallery in downtown Columbus, was the product of these women’s art-making processes. Through the courses of these experiences, I learned that art can be an exceptionally powerful tool toward communications and healing when words and discussions fall short. Although the exhibit was a short run, from August 24 to 28, 2009, the feedback that I have been receiving from both the audience and the artists (i.e., the women) has made this journey incredibly rewarding and meaningful.

The exhibit functioned as a celebration for what the women and I did together for the past three months. During that time, lots of tears, laughter, and hugs were involved too. On the opening night of the exhibit, all the people at the gallery (the audience, the women, and I) witnessed the exceptional power of how art can effortlessly elicit emotional and intellectual responses from both the artists and the viewers. Moreover, there were several magical moments when everyone at the gallery felt connected as they listened to the women’s speak about  how their art-making processes allowed them to transcend their domestic violence experiences.

As most doctoral students do, I struggled with mixed feelings toward my dissertation topic at the beginning; feelings such as passion, faith, and determination, but also pressure, self-doubt,  and fear from uncertainty. The whole experience -- entering the facility, having conversations and making art with the women, and contacting local partners to have support for the exhibit -- nourished me to grow as a novice scholar. It also taught me the true meaning of receiving higher education -- the work of an intellectual is not to promote self, but to give voice to socially marginalized groups whose voices are often muted because of their subordinate position in society.

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