I am honoured to bring you an interview with a foundation that has helped me personally and many others around the world.
The Awakenings Foundation is a private operating foundation dedicated to making visible the creative expression of survivors of sexual violence. We bring our mission to life by offering a wide variety of programming year round, ranging from performances, to exhibit openings, to panel discussions. The Awakenings Foundation also administers a grants program called the Judith Dawn Memorial Fund for the Arts. JDMF was created to provide funds and recognition for sexual violence survivors who wish to pursue the arts in support of their healing.
I can’t say the Awakening Foundation was the first to come up with the idea of using art as an expression for survivors. I think it’s a very intrinsic feeling to want to heal oneself through creative means, and people do it everyday. What I can say is that our founder, Jean Cozier, saw what no one else has before and wanted to create a space dedicated solely for survivors in the arts. Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she was able to see how important it is to give survivors a creative space to tell their stories and to be believed. This year we celebrated six years in our gallery space in the Chicago neighborhood of Ravenswood.
The work shown at Awakenings Foundation is art as therapy rather than art therapy, and the difference becomes very apparent when you see the work. We exhibit work made by artists who are also survivors, rather than by survivors who produce the art in a clinical counseling session. These are works of art made with skill and decision. Time and time again I’ve had artists tell me that exhibiting their artwork here is just as healing and empowering as when they created the work. For that reason it’s important for us to be able to maintain a safe and trauma-informed space that not only supports survivors, but also the idea that others can and should leave with a better understanding of what it’s like to experience sexual violence. For survivors to be heard, and most importantly believed, is an incredibly powerful component in their healing. Until an artist sees the work in front of them they don’t always completely understand elements of their trauma. Something changes when you’re able to put your experiences in front of you to see more clearly, instead of just holding it inside. Both art as therapy and therapy are ways of confronting, processing, and healing. I am not a professional, so I really can’t say one is more beneficial than the other, but I do know many folks who find both to be helpful.
We know there is no one particular way to heal which is why we’re so dedicated to providing a plethora of programs for survivors and those who care about them. The previously mentioned JDMF has bi-annual application with funding up to $2,500 each cycle for survivors who are looking to fund a creative endeavor. We’ve awarded funds to artists for almost any creative project you can think of, from dance to woodworking, sewing classes to photography. It really is all about the healing and what a creative expression can do to further that in someone. I wish I could tell you that our program is open to anyone anywhere but we’re currently only accepting applications from the Chicago-land area, which is mostly due to the fact that we have limited funding and staff resources.
If you’re bummed to find out you’re not within our application range, don’t be too upset because there are plenty of ways to get involved with us. It may not include funding, but we also publish a quarterly Literary Magazine called Awakened Voices. You can either submit your own work about healing, or respond to calls for our upcoming issues. Another way you can get involved if you’re not in the Chicago-land area is to participate in our Our Postcard Project. This unique call for art is one that anyone can respond to by using a postcard as a canvas for their healing from any type of trauma, sexual and nonsexual alike. When we collect enough we’ll exhibit them. You can check out some of the postcards we’ve received so far. They really are incredible.
We try to reach out to those who are beyond our physical location as often as we can because we know there are survivors everywhere wanting to tell their stories. Anyone who experiences sexual violence, women, men, non-binary folks alike, can and are encouraged to get involved. For those who are located nearby we’ve been able to create programs that showcase their talents and stories within the walls of our gallery. There’s little we won’t say no to when it comes to providing the stage from which a survivor can be heard. From multimedia performances, to dance, even hosting workshops, and panels. For me personally, it’s a dream come true to administer such a healing space. While it is rewarding, it’s not always easy and there have been plenty of times when I’ve had to step away for a deep breath to center myself. Folks are able to release a lot of emotion and history when they are here and for me it’s an interesting perspective to witness. Here we are actively cheering on those who need a creative outlet for their deepest, darkest troubles. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Basically, we have as much going on as our team of three can make happen and we’re so excited to bring you more programs every month. If you’re unable to get involved in our programs but still want to support survivors, you can go to our website and make a donation that directly funds our programs and administration. Be sure to check out our facebook to see photos from all of our programs held in April to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month!
Thank you so much to Awakenings Foundation for giving me the opportunity to give them some exposure and thank them personally for the help they have provided me and many other survivors.
Please visit and donate if you can! http://www.awakeningsfoundation.net/
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