Art and Family Violence recovery

Since 2009 I have been working with Connections Uniting Care creating art with women affected by family violence and sexual abuse.  So many relationships have formed, artworks created and special moments and transformations  have occurred during  the mosaic and clay groups.   Joanne Donne, the outstanding Connections Family Counsellor with whom I worked until last year was inspired to create a book  reflecting some of these incredible moments and offering hope to those who have yet to embark on a journey of recovery.   Together she and I worked with Monash medical students, Yoshi and Sandy, to create a reflection of this creative time – which is attached for you to see and enjoy.
Joanne left the organisation last year, but the groups have continued and continue to be creative and inspiring for all who participate.
It is wonderful to see this book of art coming to life!  As I have looked through the pages, I am reminded of so many enjoyable, creative times spent with women here at Connections.
The Art Groups began about five years ago when I approached Connections with a proposal to offer art to women who had been victims of trauma.   I believed it would assist them in their healing.   With a leap of faith, Connections accepted the idea;  the classes began and with that, many creative, social and emotional journeys also began, or took a new turn.
The Art Groups are a special part of all our weeks.   My role is to offer my skills as an artist to the group, as well as  offer creative ideas for consideration.   At first these are simple techniques and themes to get women creating, feeling confident and comfortable.   The mosaic mirrors and coil pots are examples of these  first steps.  
Gradually women are introduced to themes that I hope will develop new skills and a new outlook.   Themes around the self, the past, baggage, the body and the future help participants look at themselves and their lives with different eyes. Joanne brings her considerable therapeutic skills to the group, offering insight and providing support where required.  The magical thing about these groups is the sense of community that grows and holds women safely as each tried out new creative practices as well as using these to express something of her inner life.  
In some ways I am amazed by the work that emerges from under the fingertips of the women, and in other ways, I am not.   I know each of use has great potential to be creative.   I also know that each participant has great potential to step out from the shadow of their unhappy past to create a sense of wellbeing for herself and others.    
I hope you enjoy the book.
Anne Riggs PhD Artist
Art Group Facilitator