Wednesday Evening Open House for Individuals or Group Studio Visits



"Reaching Out" Child Abuse Monument
Sculptor/Artistic Director: Michael C. Irving, Ph.D.


  Participation Brought About Personal Change
The Power of Art
Emotional Material Beyond Words
Issues Resurfacing Through Art
A Resource List for Art as Healing



Participation Brought About
Personal Change

Dr. Michael Irving's "Reaching Out" Child Abuse Monument dramatically illustrates the effectiveness of art as healing. Survivor/artists sculpting quilt squares for the Monument found creating art reached deep inside and brought about personal change. Derrick said,

"Making the sculpture helped me express feelings inside that have wanted to come out for a long time. Also to tell others of my experience was a great relief -- to be able to put in art what I might have felt as a child."

As one participant stated, "The Monument and all it stands for is a healing place. It is a place to rework personal trauma into a totally hopeful outcome," and another found "I liked the chance to create myself anew. Making the wax quilt square was like telling my story in a condensed way." Creative expression can be a powerfully healing part of the therapeutic process.


First Session

This warm white liquid
in my palm
is too familiar
like the searing smell
of scorched flesh
it takes me back
to there...




Thank you.
I learned from the
honesty of the quilt squares.
Cami, Assisting Sculptor


Home at last.




Reality came when I placed
my hand in the plaster.
As I sat with LAMP support
women, Monica, Jackie,
Sue - I felt like a person.
I felt like what it feels like
to be in existence. I finally
feel like I am the reason
to heal - even though
there are many other
reasons, I have never
felt like I was a reason.

There is a lot of grief at
what I lost. As I look
behind me from the
mountain top, you see
I believe I’ve climbed
one peak, I look and
see the storms and valleys
I have walked through -
I feel God and Jesus
have been there all
along from the beginning

Eye(s) see you forever
Eye(s) see you forever
Eye(s) see you forever




Taken away
No return in sight
Mine, it isn't right
Hide it away
Send it home
Mine it will always stay

But a choice this time
Given to be shared
Honoured to be remembered
Hope it will help
Not good enough, null and void
Silence now screams
My heart went into my square
Hope, it is enough!




I will Deconstruct My Life.





The Power of Art

Artistic expression can be more dramatic for aiding the healing process than most people realize. In the first quilt square workshop series with Dr. Irving Barbara shared, "I never really considered the possibility of making the art having any significant impact on me, but I was very wrong. I really wanted something that would have impact on the viewer and say something to them about child abuse. My inspiration had to come from somewhere inside and so I went within and remembered and relived. What I found were feelings about how I felt about what had happened to me, something I'd always avoided." Art making can bring out core themes and feelings.

Verbal expression of traumatic experience even in adulthood may be difficult or even impossible. Child abuse and child sexual abuse is difficult to talk about with others. Years of secrecy and not speaking about abuse experiences makes them distant from words and verbal thoughts. The experience and pain of abuse is difficult to comprehend and find words that will give it expression. Trauma is processed and stored in part through the nonverbal regions of the brain.

Art activity works with the nonverbal regions of the mind and with body memory allowing expression of material that is difficult to put words to or to share with others. As one quilt square artist offered, "It gave me another way of expressing what happened to me as I have real difficulty doing so aloud."



Emotional Material Beyond Words

Dealing with the inner world outside of language means that the art process may bring forward material that has not been dealt with before, or has not been worked with on nonverbal levels. Mary noted how powerful material, "beyond words" was difficult to bring out in verbal therapy:

"I can remember so many therapy sessions where I would feel blocked or overwhelmed by some emotion, and I would say 'I have no words to express how I feel right now'. Sculpting the quilt square enabled me to express what was at first beyond words. Then seeing my art, I learned to find the words to express my trauma and feelings. Then I processed my trauma and feelings fully using ordinary words."



Issues Resurfacing Through Art

In creating art, issues addressed previously in therapy may resurface to be revisited from a different vantage point. Additionally, the art work itself can be repeatedly viewed and reflected upon. In seeing one's art work, the survivor can look back at the voice of the inner self and at experiences and feelings that have been hidden by self protection and denial. One survivor/artist stated, "Working with art and looking at it makes what happened more real". Responding to her poetry that accompanied her sculpting, another artist shared,

"Somehow, I managed to capture the essence of my reality: how I felt as a girl and the innocence of what motivated me. What was real and mattered to that 9 year old."

The artistic contact can further identify or clarify therapeutic issues and concerns. As one "Reaching Out" participant pointed out: "It has allowed me to more clearly define the areas I need to continue to work on." Maria spoke about the broad influences of her sculpting experience.

"It has given me an awareness, a means to express what I have suffered...and the freedom to share graphically something which I was afraid to share with others before. I found the experiences revealing, for it showed me things about myself."

For Marjorie, creating the sculpture,

"Put me in touch with my rigidity about doing anything with my hidden inner self. e.g. fear of going within and experiencing the small child part of me ­ fear of feeling the pain of that child. It put me in touch with the feelings there in spite of myself."



A Resource List for Art as Healing

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*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)

*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2004)