Each year I work with the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA) running art programs for survivors of sexual abuse and family violence. And each year we draw together a collection of artworks created in the SECASA art groups for publication in the beautiful, full colour SECASA calendar . This year is no exception.
Everyone who participated in any of our art groups has work included in the calendar.
The calendars are important for so many reasons : firstly, because they validate the creativity and talents of those people in our groups who have, for much of their lives, believed (and have been told) they are hopeless and useless. Secondly, they demonstrate to other people who have been abused that there is hope and recovery. Thirdly, because they look great – so people want to have one and that further uplifts those whose work is included.
The 2017 SECASA Calendar features work from two groups – the first held in Seaford (Bookmaking and printing) and the second in East Bentleigh (Mosaics and clay). The prints were made using a lino cut technique and are quite small (about 10 x 5 cm). Each participant and counsellor made a series which were then shared amongst the group, then made into small books.
Participants also made concertina books as well as learned a range of binding techniques.
The mosaic and clay work was created for installation in our on-going Mourning Wall project. This wall is at Monash Medical Centre, Moorabbin and is a special place for people affected by sexual abuse to mourn and acknowledge their many losses and deep feelings. The area is currently surrounded by construction work and will be clear for viewing towards the end of 2017.
Each month of the calendar has an uplifting quote to accompany the art, chosen by Carolyn Worth, the SECASA Manager. People often comment on the quotes, and their relationship with the art; remarking how personally meaningful they are and that they serve as mantra during that month.
One participant from each group has contributed a piece of writing which, once again, tells the importance art making and being part of a community has in recovery. They also speak of the power of art to speak others who have experienced abuse.
East Bentleigh Group: Creating art for the Mourning Wall, Monash Medical Centre
I was given the opportunity to attend the mosaic group again. The first time I attended (2015) was about learning skills and using them to mosaic a self portrait.
This time I got to focus more on my trauma, while making my three arch pieces for the Mourning Wall. Although I found this difficult, I enjoyed using the clay and mosaic. I was amazed how and what emotions came out while making my clay items and mosaicing around them in my arches.
Considering I normally have to hide my feelings, as well as keep quiet about what happened to me, this gave me the opportunity to express these emotions, so others may see and feel them too. In a way, I am being heard and seen and I can express this without feeling judged. It is up there for others to see and it is ok as I am allowed to feel this way. We need more of these groups.
My pieces may help someone who identifies with them. Or maybe my work and the Mourning Wall will just to let them know they aren’t alone in whatever is happening in their life.
Seaford Group: Creating hand made books and prints
Being a part of SECASA art groups run by Anne Riggs is a very moving experience. The first thing that comes to mind is the united front that the groups readily nurture within each and every participant to feel part of a community. Everyone is openly welcomed and supported to re-ignite their creativity. The beautiful thing is that skills vary amongst all participants; and this is absolutely fine as there is plenty of room for people of all abilities. There is no need for prior skills to join as all participants are taught the steps needed to reach the desired outcome right from the outset through to completion.
One of the best parts of being a member of these art groups is obviously the creativity element; but for me, forming connections with similar others is also an important part. It is not only reassuring; it also assists in reducing my feelings of emotional loneliness and leads to more constructive and healthy realizations that no matter how alone I feel, there IS always someone out there that I can turn to.
The Art Groups foster a fun, caring, loving and compassionate environment for participants to transcend into for a set time on a weekly basis (normally for a period of three months on average). These art groups allow us survivors the opportunity to say yes to some ME TIME. They allow us to listen to our wants and needs rather than putting everyone else’s at the top of the list.
I’ve attended quite a few of SECASA’s art groups now, and am honoured to say that the overall impact has allowed me to take a positive step forward in my healing journey. I’m eternally grateful for coming into contact with such groups, as they have allowed me to try new things and trust in the process, rather than giving up before I’ve even truly started.
When I recall attendance at my first Mosaic Art Group, I laugh because I doubted my artistic ability, my creative side and all things ME really. In comparison with today, I literally cannot stop myself from engaging in creativity as I find it so calming and a particularly useful activity to assist with living in the moment.
Sarah Brain, participant
DOWNLOAD the 2017 Calendar here : secasa-2017-calendar
If you would like a copy of the calendar, contact SECASA firstname.lastname@example.org or you can collect one from a SECASA office in the next week or so (early December).
Big thanks to Ken at Allanby Press for his work with me, and beyond, in designing these calendars so carefully and beautifully.