SUE TURNER'S WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE
House Newsletter, Fall 1997
The Child Abuse Survivor Monument
Project Art Workshops
by Sue Turner
For a month I was involved with
a group of childhood sexual abuse survivors
who participated in The Child Abuse Survivor
Monument Project. I wanted to make a square
but I was afraid mine would not turn out. I
am not an artist and I could not imagine getting
my ideas sculpted onto the square, but I felt
deeply this was something I needed to do. When
the Vietnam Memorial Wall went up, I wanted
a "wall" for me to be able to go to,
even though at that time I did not understand
why. When I read about The Survivor Monument
Project it matched that thirty year old feeling.
So with fear and
trembling, I attended the first workshop. The
first night Michael, the workshop leader, and
Angela, the assistant artist, took plaster impressions
of everyone's hand. I felt both excited and scared.
Excited because I was doing my Vietnam Wall and
I felt scared as the plaster began to harden around
my hand. It was difficult to sit there and not
pull my hand out but the encouragement from the
other survivors reminding me that I was "not
stuck" enabled me to complete it. It was
so great! Every time another hand was cast, the
group cheered and clapped. Certainly an ego boost.
Once the plaster impression
was taken, a positive wax image of the hand
was placed on a ten by ten inch wax palette
and that is what the survivor works on Every
time someone's palette was ready there was a
chorus of,"Look at your hand. Look at
your hand!" We put our hands on each other's
hand images just to share the feeling. That
first workshop started us off on some sculpting
techniques, sharing our feelings and our ideas,
and learning how to write poetry that will be
included in a travelling art exhibition.
The room was filled with every
feeling. It was palpable. There was pain; excruciating
pain as the realization of one's life took form
on the palette. There was a heavy feeling of
loss as first one survivor then another put
precious loved ones on their quilt squares,
never to be forgotten. Often we felt overwhelmed,
but through it all the inner strength of each
one of us was there. We encouraged each other
and used our own feelings to motivate us. The
poetry writing helped us to express these feelings
in yet another way. This first workshop was
three loooooong days.
Our finishing workshop was a
month later. In the meantime, Michael coached
us on how to meet and work on our squares once
a week. That turned out to be a great idea.
Many couldn't work on their square by themselves
and our feelings were so intense that many of
us wanted to quit working on them altogether.
It was so helpful to see each other and share
our feelings to find out we were not alone.
We asked each other for advice and again shared
our fears. During these weekly sessions, people
took snapshots. Cameras were difficult for many
but those who were uncomfortable with having
their pictures taken decided they could man
the cameras. The pictures are wonderful to have.
Our final workshop was
more comfortable in some ways and more difficult
in others. There were big feelings because our
squares were finished and Michael was taking
them back to Toronto. Yikes! We had spent the
past month pouring our hearts, our fears, our
pain and our hopes into our squares and now
they were leaving us. We had a releasing session
for this where we were told how much doing this
project meant to us. Michael suggested we give
our square a kiss and say good-bye which we
did. I again have goose bumps as I remember
my own sadness in relinquishing my square. Naturally,
at this point it called for more photos and
I believe we saved the best photograph 'til
last. We arranged our squares as we imagined
them to be on the monument. A chorus of oohs
and aahs as we prided ourselves on the past
month's journey. It reminded us of better days
to come as we reaffirmed that we would all be
front and centre at the unveiling.
Sue taking a nap on top
her quilt square and her tool box during one of
the "three looooooog days".
A group bond and support pairings
were made to assist the Sarnia group with sculpting
on their own for one month between two three day
In all the workshops there
were difficult feelings about letting go of the
quilt squares as the workshop came to a close.
Various ceremonies and
activities were done to assist with the letting
would encourage every survivor to do a quilt square.
Many of the people in the group got their workshop
fee sponsored by friends, family, business associates
and church groups. Sculpting a square and writing
the poetry really stirs up feelings but for me
every feeling I had was worth telling the whole
truth of my life. I feel a deeper sense of freedom
in myself and a deep feeling of pride that I am
standing up to honour my self and every survivor
of child abuse.
Sue Turner on right, 1997