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AWBW Founder Cathy Salser

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AWBW's Founder and Executive Director, Cathy Salser

When I began this work in 1991, I thought it would be just one summer’s journey. I loaded my trunk full of art supplies and set out, going from shelter to shelter, hoping to share art in a way that might make a difference. I grew up painfully shy and in the face of domestic violence art was my safe haven – and my voice. What I saw that first summer, and what’s made A Window Between Worlds grow, is the confirmation that even a single art session can change someone’s life forever.

A participant at one of our partner sites, a Los Angeles police department that runs domestic violence support groups, had been in an abusive relationship for over two decades. None of the agency’s services had helped her feel ready to file a temporary restraining order, until they began the AWBW art program and participated in the “Funeral of I Can’t” project. What Captain Vincent Avila realized (and came to thank us for) was that art enables an internal shift to happen. In his words, “until that internal change occurs, there is no way to force the external changes needed to prevent domestic violence.”

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Art provides a window of safety to release pain that has been trapped. It becomes a window of courage, a window of change that ripples out from the personal to the family to the community level. This window of change is the heart of A Window Between Worlds and at the heart of I CAN: Requiem for I Can’t.

It has been a tremendous honor and joy to partner with Barbara T. Smith and Nina Jun to take the “Funeral of I Can’t” workshop from the core of AWBW’s curriculum and transform it into I CAN, a community collaboration that weaves together the collective voices of hundreds, soon to be thousands, of survivors, and welcomes the broader community to join us in reexamining and shattering the limitations left in the wake of abuse.

Over the years I have seen our art programs become a uniquely powerful tool of transformation and healing offered in many places, such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and even police departments. AWBW workshops are there - in a critical place, at a critical moment in the lives of survivors - carefully structured to create a pivotal island of safety for each person to discover in her own heart, voice, and language a meaningful vision forward.

When it comes to ending abuse in our communities, we all have a role to play. This project invites each of us to examine the personal threshold between what we feel we can’t or CAN do to help end the violence. I hope you will join in to make a change.

Join us to help end domestic and sexual violence. Together WE CAN!


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Thank you for joining I CAN WE CAN.

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