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July 9, 2008

Visual Arts Xtra - Mural offers survivors a new approach to healing

A group of domestic violence survivors has learned how to heal and offer hope to other survivors with a just-completed mural that reflects the positives that have come from their horrific, shared experiences. 

Carla, Stephanie, Angela and Tabitha (whose last names were omitted at their request) spent nearly three months creating the mural that now hangs in the lobby of the downtown home of The Center for Women and Families. 

“I wanted to get involved because it was a good opportunity to show the community what I had gone through,” Carla said. 

The Louisville Visual Art Association’s “Open Doors,” a visual arts outreach program, approached The Center in January about facilitating the mural, which began with discussion about the women’s experiences and sketches the women drew, said Ashley Cecil, an artist, activist and program coordinator. 

Photo by Jane Mattingly: From left to right: Stephanie, Ashley Cecil, Carla (in front), Tabitha, Fran Englander and Angela worked for almost three months to complete the mural that now hangs at The Center for Women and Families.
Photo by Jane Mattingly: From left to right: Stephanie, Ashley Cecil, Carla (in front), Tabitha, Fran Englander and Angela worked for almost three months to complete the mural that now hangs at The Center for Women and Families.

The brightly colored mural contains large silhouettes of the women’s bodies against the background of many smaller silhouettes. It incorporates themes of upward growth, transition and releasing of grief and anger through images of vines and a woman releasing a dove. 

“We kind of looked in and out of ourselves, and that’s kind of where we took off from after we got started,” Angela said. “It was things that have been on the outside of us and things that are on the inside that we kind of put into our painting to make it what it is.” 

All novice artists, the women visited the LVAA’s galleries at the Water Tower to learn more about painting before embarking on their own artistic endeavor. 

“I was impressed with how invested they all were in this,” Cecil said. “When you see the painting, I don’t think you will believe that they have never picked up a brush before.” 

The women pulled inspiration from their common experience and the support they received from The Center for Women and Families, as well as each other. 

Photo by Jane Mattingly: RIGHT — Program Coordinator Ashley Cecil stands by the mural that symbolizes healing and hope to the women at the center.
Photo by Jane Mattingly: RIGHT — Program Coordinator Ashley Cecil stands by the mural that symbolizes healing and hope to the women at the center.

“We all have different stories, but they are so much the same,” Stephanie said.

The mural will be a permanent fixture at The Center, 927 S. Second St. The Center, which opened in 1912, provides shelter for people affected by domestic violence and sexual abuse and serves more than 30,000 people throughout Kentuckiana annually. For more information, call 581-7200. 


Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com