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Downtown Window Art Walk brings domestic abuse to light

By Christine Dunkle | Sep 25, 2020
"Shattered" by Amy Lowry.

Rockland — Throughout October, Rockland is breaking the silence of domestic abuse in a bold and beautiful way with a downtown-wide Window Art Exhibit in Solidarity with Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Forty-five artists and 50 businesses are participating.

The Finding Our Voices event is an expansion of photojournalist Patrisha McLean’s "Let's Talk About It" banner campaign that has been touring downtown business windows around the state since it launched in the Midcoast this spring, with banners in the Dover-Foxcroft area, the Blue Hill Peninsula, and back in Knox County.

"The Art Walk is another way to open everyone's eyes to the domestic abuse all around them, and also a way to get ahead of the winter when increased COVID-19 isolation is going to make it a lot more dangerous for the women and children trapped with angry and controlling family members,” McLean said.

The Farnsworth Art Museum is one of the mostly-Main Street businesses displaying the work of area artists. The museum has participated for many years in October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by highlighting artworks or purple lights in its Main Street windows.

“It is an issue of utmost concern in any year. This year, with so many needing to remain in close quarters, statistics have shown that cases have unfortunately grown throughout the country,” said Farnsworth Communications and Marketing Manager David Troup. “We hope our participation will help to increase awareness.”

Poets Dave Morrison and Kristin Lindquist are contributing poetry, and Amy Rollins is collaborating with Morrison to render his poem in calligraphy.

“I was honored when Patrisha invited me to take part – the work that she and other similar organizations do is so important,” Morrison said. “She asked if I might have something that would be a good fit, and invited me to think about it – I was able to get back to her in about two minutes, with ‘Patricia, Alone After 14 Years’ (from Sweet 2006), a poem that had been waiting for such an opportunity!”

Among the art in Rockland's business windows will be the full set of McLean’s 29 “Let’s Talk About It” banners, each featuring the portrait of a Maine survivor of domestic abuse (aged 18 to 80 and about a third from the Midcoast) and the 24/7 helpline number of New Hope for Women (1-800-522-3304).

Viewers can follow hearts on an Art Walk map to see Survivor/Solidarity Art in such diverse makeshift gallery windows as Doug’s Barber Shop, Camden National Bank and Atlantic Baking Company — plus the more traditional exhibit spaces as Caldbeck Gallery, Dowling Walsh, CMCA and the Steel House. A "play" arrow symbol next to some of the banners indicates when there is audio of the survivor telling her story accessible by cell phone.

Windows are a fitting venue for this domestic abuse-awareness art exhibit, McLean said, because it is important to bring the issue into the light. “Everyone needs to know how pervasive, and insidious and dangerous this is,” she said. “Victims need to know they are not alone, and that the community stands beside them and help is available.”

A month-long online silent auction of the window art will benefit Finding Our Voices, and can be found at findingourvoices.net/auction.

Finding Our Voices began as a multimedia exhibit, combining McLean’s portrait photography of survivors along with audio recordings of them telling their stories. The show kicked off Valentine’s Day 2019 at the Camden Public Library.

The project gained momentum with a New York Times article and four-month-long stint at the  Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta. In April, Finding Our Voices became a non-profit organization marshaling survivor voices and community creativity to break the silence of domestic abuse town by town and conversation by conversation. Sarah Gilbert Esq. of Camden Law is a board member.

The art exhibit is one of the many ways Finding Our Voices is helping people to recognize and avoid dangerous relationships, safely leave and heal, and reach out for the help that is there.

“There are so many women carrying a toxic load from living with abuse as a child growing up, or enduring months or decades of it in an intimate partner-relationship. The abuse can be physical, but also emotional, sexual and financial,” McLean said. “When you open up about it, the toxicity diffuses, and it also is out in the public arena. The shame is not ours: It is the perpetrator's and society's.”

She said this principle is perfectly illustrated by Robin Horty's contribution to the Art Walk — a collaboration with Michelle Bird from Iceland called, "It's not my secret, it is yours."

Business sponsors for the art exhibit are Reny's, Camden Hospital for Animals, Rockport Automotive, Pen Bay Glass, Camden Real Estate and McLean Hospital.

For more information about the Art Walk and to hear the stories of more than 40 survivors, including on McLean’s new “Let’s Talk About It” radio show, visit findingourvoices.net. Both Finding Our Voices and New Hope for Women will be available to “talk about it” outside on Winter Street Thursday, Oct. 22, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. New Hope also offers support and resources 24/7 at its helpline at 1-800-522-3304.

 

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