By Niagara University
For the seventh year, the Niagara University campus community and local agencies came together to display and view artwork reflecting the journeys, experiences, hopes and dreams of the survivors of domestic violence who created them. “Living in Light: The Art of Healing,” presented by the university’s Office of Violence Prevention & Education and its community partners, was held on Oct. 4 at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum.
The event was held in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in connection with the Red Flag Campaign, a national public awareness initiative designed to encourage college students to intervene when they see a warning sign (“red flag”) of partner violence.
“What we all share in common is being here, in this moment, living in the light – the light of hope, the light of progress, the light of healing, the light of compassion, and the light of new beginnings,” said Dr. Jennifer Beebe, associate professor and coordinator of Niagara’s clinical mental health counseling program, who organized the first event in 2016 with Dr. Dana Radatz, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice and director of the graduate program in criminal justice administration. Both professors are still actively involved in its organization.
The Niagara University campus community and local agencies came together to display and view artwork reflecting the journeys, experiences, hopes, and dreams of the survivors of domestic violence who created them.
“In Their Shoes” gave children impacted by domestic violence a way to express their creativity and personality.
Exhibits included “Pathways to Freedom, Stepping Stones,” which focused on the individuals’ unique journey to healing; “In Their Shoes,” a collection created by children impacted by domestic violence to express their creativity and personality; and “Voices of Survivors, Visions of Strength,” which highlighted the courage of survivors who share their stories.
In addition to the artwork, the event featured an exhibit of ribbon skirts designed and created by members of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 2021 as a way of showing unity and sisterhood for missing and murdered Indigenous women; a 16-square quilt made by women in the Tuscarora community that represents what domestic violence means to them; and the “Silent Witness Project,” a reconstruction of a national traveling memorial honoring the 25 individuals from Niagara County who were killed in acts of domestic violence. “The Clothesline Project,” a collection of T-shirts with messages to raise awareness of domestic and sexual violence, was displayed outside the museum.
The theme of the event was that “the voices of survivors are meant to be heard in any way that they choose, whether it be through artwork, storytelling, memoirs or songs,” said Caleigh Skinner, director of domestic violence services at Pinnacle Community Services. “This is what the event is about – honoring the stories of the past and present survivors of domestic violence.”
“This event speaks directly to the incredible community support available in Niagara County,” Radatz added. “Not only are we fortunate to partner with so many agencies and organizations that do amazing work to address domestic violence and support survivors, but also each year so many campus and community members show their support by attending the event and bearing witness to the messages shared by survivors through their art.”
Several community organizations collaborated to host the event, including Niagara University, Castellani Art Museum, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office – victim assistance unit and domestic violence intervention program, Niagara Falls Police Department – domestic violence unit, Pinnacle Community Services, Seven Dancers Coalition, and the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier.