Working in the field of human services for over 24 years I learned early on the value of bringing people together to create art that sends a message. For survivors of trauma, it can also be an imperative tool in their healing and in rebuilding community. When I arrived at Rainbow Services, a domestic violence service provider, in 2006, I was grateful to see that AWBW was an established partner supporting efforts to assist survivors in utilizing art as a healing tool for their trauma.
Offering opportunities for people to come together to create art connects us to the purpose and importance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
AWBW’s Community Story Tree (2011) project was the first time Rainbow engaged our staff and local artists to collaborate on raising awareness about domestic violence in our community. Inspired by AWBW’s Community Story Tree project, Rainbow worked with local artist and survivor, Terri Morgan, to create a one-of-a-kind community tree to tell the story of healing through community. Prior to the Community Story Tree project, Rainbow focused art projects on the individual healing benefits for survivors. Acknowledging domestic violence affects so many aspects of the community, we invited staff and local community artists to join us in the creation of the story tree.
AWBW introduced me to the concept of socially engaged art that is intended to impact people, places and communities directly. During my involvement in AWBW’s I Can We Can (ICWC) campaign in 2013, I realized I had been practicing socially engaged art for years!
ICWC empowered Rainbow to broaden our community engagement efforts — engaging our families and local politicians to send a message that we all have a part to play in ending domestic violence. Rainbow again collaborated with local artist Teri Morgan. She owned So Cal Tattoo at the time and allowed Rainbow to utilize the shop during a summer festival in San Pedro.
At the festival, hundreds of community members engaged in the ICWC art project, including my family! My brother came with his wife and children, and brought our Papa. My boyfriend, now husband, volunteered as a photographer and took many of the photos that would end up in Rainbow’s ICWC art exhibit and now on display at various Rainbow Community Centers. As part of the City of Los Angeles Domestic Violence Alliance, it was a proud moment to see a photo of my family’s ICWC hand project displayed with the mayor’s at the annual Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) celebration at City Hall.
In the domestic violence movement and related fields addressing trauma, we engage in art to shine light on the dynamics and social structures that perpetuate and support intimate partner violence. As a community of providers, art helps our own journey in supporting survivors as we continue to heal from our own personal, cultural, historical and gender-based traumas.
Working in social justice movements can sometimes feel defeating. Art challenges society’s expectations and the status quo. Art helps us release the hopelessness that sometimes accompanies our work and create a vision for a more just world. Art allows a space to explore and release our sometimes big/complicated feelings that arise in being of service to a community of people often forgotten and not supported by our society.
As we honor DVAM, we acknowledge the many losses and challenges the survivors we serve, and our communities, have faced due to intimate partner violence. We honor the work of the community of providers fighting for social justice and the human rights of all survivors to create safer communities. We honor the journey of our advocates and the critical work of supporting survivors as we envision a world in which everyone is respected, loved, and feels safe.
Offering opportunities for people to come together to create art connects us to the purpose and importance of DVAM. It helps survivors and their communities heal, and it helps providers reconnect with why we got into this work and combat vicarious trauma as a form of community care. Art provides hope and uplifts our strengths.
(A special shout out to my Rainbowlandian family this DVAM. I’m still here cheering you all on from the sidelines! Stay brilliant, curious, and kindhearted.)
Elizabeth Eastlund, MSW/LCSW
Founding Member of the Los Angeles Domestic Violence Homeless Services Coalition
Former Executive Director of Rainbow Services
Board Member of the California Partnership to End DV
San Pedro, California
Interested in creating your own I CAN WE CAN hands?
Do The Self-Led Workshop
Want to utilize art to help domestic violence survivors and advocates?
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A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) supports hundreds of direct service organizations across the country to incorporate creative expression into their work with trauma survivors. With this blog we uplift the voices of our art workshop facilitators and participants. We invite you to take in this perspective, notice what resonates and explore how it may fit into your life.