How Art Helps Heal and transform

By LAURA ABRUSCATO, Contributing Writer



04-Cathy Salser & G                                                                              Art was always a way for Palisadian Cathy Salser to feel safe and find her voice. In the summer of 1991, wanting to help others through art, she took a road trip across the country, stopping along the way to teach art workshops at domestic violence shelters.

Out of this trip, the nonprofit A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) was born, which this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping people heal from trauma through art.

AWBW will host its Art in the Afternoon fundraiser at the Venice Skills Center on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 4 p.m. The event is for the whole family, and there will be food, the Aquarium of Pacific on Wheels, art making, carnival games, auctions, massages and more.

“Families and all ages can come and experience art as a celebration of life and help launch the program at new sites,” says Salser. Recently, 70 social-service agencies applied for training in the Windows art programs, but there was only space for 24.

The Venice-based organization, whose earliest supporters included many Palisadians, now has a $1.5-million budget and 16 staff members, and provides 90,000 art sessions a year in 28 states. In celebration of AWBS’s anniversary, a grant will match all new and increased donations this year up to $250,000.

Two years ago, the organization broadened its scope from working with women and children at domestic violence shelters to working with people healing from all types of trauma. This was inspired by one of its leaders, who told AWBW that the art workshops were also very effective in working with combat veterans, allowing space for them to be vulnerable.

The organization is collaborative in that it partners with agencies such as The Salvation Army Haven, LAUSD, and CLARE Foundation, which in turn serve children, teens or adults who have been affected by trauma. A Window Between Worlds trains leaders from the organizations, who then take their training and hold art workshops for their clients. The workshops help the leaders open up communication with their clients.

“I’m sharing what I know,” says Salser, who as a child witnessed verbal abuse between her parents and who now has their support on her own healing journey. The art workshops help survivors of trauma feel empowered and gain resilience.

“I hope it’s a window of safety, for a person to plant a seed of change,” says Salser, who lives in the Alphabet neighborhood with her partner Shelly Meyers, an investment manager, and their sons, Sam, 8, and Tucker, 5, who both attend Palisades Elementary.

Salser recalls visiting one of the shelters where she had taught an art workshop two years earlier. When she arrived, she was approached by a woman who said, “Come out to my car, I have to show you something.” The art project that she had done in Salser’s workshop, symbolizing what she was moving away from and toward, was hanging from the rear-view mirror. She used it as a daily symbol of hope.

Salser believes in art being useful, and is now the lead artist on the Touchstone project—where participants make a small art piece glued to a glass stone that they can carry through their day as a reminder of hope and change.

Attendees at the Art in the Afternoon fundraiser will have a chance to make their own touchstones, so as they help to support others transforming through art, they can also transform themselves. Tickets are $60 for adults, $25 for teens and $10 for kids and can be purchased the day of the event at the Venice Skills Center, 6114 Fifth Ave., or at awbw.org<http://awbw.org>.
Palisadian Cathy Salser, left, founder of A Window Between Worlds, with G Hannelius, star of A Dog With A Blog. Photo courtesy of A Window Between Worlds

 

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