Cathy Salser and Healing Through Art Mark 25th Year

By Laura Abruscato
Contributing Writer

Many Palisadians came out to celebrate A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) and its 25th anniver- sary at a brunch at Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica on Sept. 25.

Cathy Salser, founder of the organization that helps people heal from trauma through art, was joined by family, including her partner Shelley Meyers, her parents, and many friends from Palisades High School and their parents at the sold out brunch.

Inspired by a cross-country trip Salser took in 1991, conducting art workshops with women in domestic violence shelters, AWBW has since helped almost 200,000 children and adults heal from violence and trauma through art.

Cathy Salser (left), looks at the Creative Vision Award presented to her by her mother, Susan Salser at the organization’s 25th anniversary event. Photo: Shane F. King

Cathy Salser (left), looks at the Creative Vision Award presented to her by her mother, Susan Salser at the organization’s 25th anniversary event. Photo: Shane F. King

September’s event also marked a public shift in the organization. Salser announced that Audrey Salzburg has taken on the role of CEO, leaving Salser, founder and executive director, more time to work on the creative vision for the organization’s next 25 years. “It’s so exciting to see things in her hands,” says Salser.

“Cathy not only identified, explored and developed her own heart’s desire—being an artist—she figured out how to use art to help others find, through self-expression, their own paths to survival and growth,” said Susan Salser, Cathy’s mother, who presented her daughter with the Creative Vision Award. “These dual Cathys—the artist and the social activist—figured it out. Cathy didn’t find her profession, she created it and made it real, with your help.”

Salser’s love of art was nurtured growing up in the Pacific Palisades community. She is now running the PTA Arts Reflections program at Palisades Elementary School (where she and Meyers’ two sons, Tucker and Sam, are in the first and third grade), thereby helping to encourage a new generation of local artists.

“When I started A Window Between Worlds, I set out having no idea I was creating a nonprofit organization. I was just creating a window of safety because I needed that. We sat in the circle [creating art] and I was a part of that circle,” said Cathy, who has used art to heal from her own childhood experience of verbal abuse. Her series of portraits of survivors of domestic violence has been displayed across the country, including the rotunda of the U.S. Senate Building.

The AWBW’s Compassionate Witness Award was presented to Mallika Chopra, the CEO and founder of intent.com, which has partnered with AWBW on their touchstones art project. People create artworks on small pieces of paper that are attached to glass stones. The touchstones are pieces of art that survivors can hold in their hands and carry with them, stating their intentions (which can also be shared on the website), and receive positive support.

Bill Resnick, an AWBW advisory board member and psychiatrist, was presented with the Community Impact Award. He encouraged the organization to expand beyond working with domestic violence survivors in recent years to include many other communities affected by trauma.

AWBW works with diverse agencies such as LAUSD, United American Indian Involvement, Union Rescue Mission, as well as domestic violence shelters locally and across the country, providing training for staff to lead art workshops for their clients.

Speaking of why he is a supporter, Resnick said “The fact that they train so many people who then go back to where they work and can do these workshops.”

The event helped to raise $140,000 toward AWBW’s goal of $250,000 in new or increased donations this year. They hope to raise the another $50,000 which will be doubled by a supporter before the end of 2016. Visit: www.awbw.org.

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