Art exhibit examines recovery from abuse

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Walker

KALAMAZOO—An art show depicting recovery from the trauma of sexual abuse and an artists' reception are upcoming at Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services.

"The Art of Healing: Surviving Sexual Abuse" is on display in the college's second floor art gallery through the end of October and can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, excluding Saturdays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 and 27. An artists' reception is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, and is free and open to the public.

Gay Walker, an art therapist and coordinator of the WMU Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness Program, curated the powerful exhibit, which is intended to be a voice for people who have been abused sexually.

"Here you see artwork that demonstrates the courage of those willing to tell you about their experience," Walker says. "Even though one in three people has been abused, many are in denial or hide the experience. They don't dare talk about it or even confront it. We need to talk about this subject out loud."

The artists in the exhibit have acknowledged what has happened. They have gone through years and many steps to arrive at a place of acceptance and healing. The trauma is not forgotten, but put into a place where it is part, but not the whole, of their life story. The artists have discovered their strengths and ability to cope.

"That is the power of art therapy," Walker says. "Pouring themselves out through art allows them to speak without speaking. Art is a therapeutic and beneficial process that is effective, regardless of talent or background."

Forgiveness was essential for artist M'Bwende Anderson. "Finding my way to forgiveness for my childhood-self was long overdue," says Anderson, creator of the mixed media work "Forgiving Ourselves: Free of Your Fingerprints." "This piece represents the experience of reclaiming unbridled childhood joy, playfulness and innocence."

Available at the exhibit is literature about WMU's FIRE Place at Sindecuse Health Center, a resource and support center that addresses the issues of sexual assault and other bias incidents. For information about FIRE Place, its art therapy projects and other services, visit wmich.edu/healthcenter/healthpromotion/fireplace.

For more information about the exhibit, contact Gay Walker at (269) 387-3839 or gay.walker@wmich.edu.