FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Destroy Artwork for the World’s First
Vandals Destroy Artwork for the World’s
First Child Abuse Monument
The Child Abuse Survivor Monument was created
to give a voice of acknowledgement, compassion
and hope to one of society’s most
vulnerable groups: victims and survivors
of child abuse. Today, The Monument is as
vulnerable as the survivors it was designed
to protect: it lies derelict and vandalized
in Toronto storage space. The damage was
discovered in a heart-rending moment during
a national television interview about the
Monument. Despite this latest of many setbacks,
The Monument’s creator and supporters
are hopeful that it will survive and be
placed in a public location.
The Monument’s journey began in 1990,
as Dr. Michael Irving, an artist, psychotherapist,
and child abuse survivor, stood at the Vietnam
Memorial. There he became determined to
create a monument of equal impact, but this
time for survivors and victims of child
abuse. “In that epiphany,” Dr.
Irving explains, “the artist and psychotherapist
in me was convinced that a public monument
could transform the despair and disillusionment
that survivors feel into hope, and move
society to acknowledge the issue of child
For 20 years, Dr. Irving and his family
and hundred of participants and volunteers
have toiled to create the world’s
first monument to child abuse. The monument
consists of two angelic figures, each 10
feet high by 15 feet wide, which are draped
with the artwork of over 300 survivors of
child abuse, their supporters, and children.
These survivors worked with Dr. Irving as
he sculpted exact renditions of their hands,
around which they carved their own stories
of hope and survival. One figure, which
has been cast in bronze and weighs over
two tons, sits in Dr. Irving’s driveway
on Rhodes Avenue. The other, which is still
in the form of wax moulds, was being stored
while it awaited bronze casting.
During a recent interview Dr. Irving travelled
with a Global National film crew to see
the molds and discovered that “the
worst possible scenario has happened”.
Vandals have battered the child abuse monument-in-progress.
One silicone mold was torn in two; its fragile
wax artwork destroyed. On the rubber that
incases some of the child abuse survivors’
artwork, adult boot-prints identify where
sculpted hands and carved messages of hope
lay broken beneath. It is not known if the
vandalism was malicious or senseless. It
is certain that one thoughtless act has
wasted thousands of hours of detailed artwork.
Dr. Irving assures that he will not let
the world’s first monument to child
abuse be cast aside like so many survivors
and victims of child abuse. He estimates
that it will cost up to $100,000 to rebuild
the broken art and molds, and he is seeking
funds and the donation of a secure studio
space. These donations are necessary to
breathe life back into what has been described
as a modern-day masterpiece. The Province
of Ontario has also been asked to accept
the finished Child Abuse Monument as a donation
in order to heal and validate survivors
and promote child abuse prevention. Dr.
Irving asks the public to help by signing
a petition to the Premier at www.childabusemonument.com.
Dr. Michael C. Irving
416-469-4764; cell 416-998-2966
274 Rhodes Avenue, Toronto
When one hears about “child abuse”,
it is usually in the context of a negative
and sad experience. Despite its prevalence,
the general public has little information
about child abuse and even less about the
experience of its many survivors. The reality
is that the incidence of child abuse in
Ontario and across Canada is staggering
and unfortunately, the stories we hear in
the media are too often true. Although it
is an uncomfortable and frequently avoided
subject, it is important that the reality
of child abuse be acknowledged and addressed.
The “Reaching Out Child Abuse Monument”
can bring significant attention to the issue
of child abuse, in a positive, meaningful
context of hope and healing.
The Monument is a bronze statue built upon
the courage and spirit of victims of child
abuse and their supporters, and empowers
them to speak out. It addresses child abuse
in a non-confrontational way by focusing
on the feelings of those affected, offering
hope and facilitating the healing process.
Dr. Michael Irving is an artist and a psychotherapist
who has dedicated his life to working with
victims of child abuse and those who support
victims of child abuse, leading him to create
a visual masterpiece that has become known
as the “Reaching Out” Child
Abuse Monument. Anyone who views The Monument
is immediately struck by the messages conveyed
by each of the individual “reaching
out” sculpted quilt squares that make
up the sculpture. When the Honourable Ken
Dryden, Member of Parliament for York Centre,
was President of the Toronto Maples Leafs,
he aptly described the Monument as follows:
“Each square is an intensely personal
story, creating a monument by non-artists
who discover in their hands a powerful voice
which makes us understand”. Mr. Dryden
remains a key supporter of the Monument
project and serves as Honourary Chair of
the Friends of the Monument.
The Monument incorporates the artistic contribution
of survivors of abuse and/or their families
and supporters. The underlying premise of
a Monument of individual quilts is that
people who have confronted and survived
abuse, who have triumphed over adversity,
possess a special wisdom that can help others
face the reality of child abuse, through
hopeful, healing messages.
Measuring over 11 feet tall and 32 feet
wide, the bronze sculpture is a representation
of two standing figures with arms spread
out and upward in an encompassing embrace,
as shown on the cover page of this proposal.
Quilted shawls drape the outstretched arms
and shoulders of the figures. Each ten-inch
quilt square features a cast hand of a survivor
or a supporter, along with their artwork
and words. Seventy-six of the quilt squares
have an outline of a child’s hand
and their personal message about child abuse.
On each figure, a number quilt squares are
left smooth as a place of remembrance for
all survivors. Visitors to the site can
use water to moisten a hand and rest it
on one of the plain squares, creating a
temporary hand print and allowing them to
be part of the Monument while undertaking
a few moments of contemplation.
At the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1990, Dr.
Irving experienced an epiphany about how
that work of art helped America to heal
from wounds that shared traits common to
child abuse, including post-traumatic stress
disorder, vicarious trauma, distancing and
denial. As a result, Dr. Irving, himself
a survivor, conceived of a memorial Monument
to survivors of child abuse.
Bessel A, van der Kolk, one of the leading
Trauma Researchers says “ … talking
about the trauma is rarely if ever enough:
trauma survivors need to take some action
that symbolizes triumph over helplessness
and despair. The Holocaust Memorial (Yad
Vashem) in Jerusalem, and the Vietnam War
Memorial in Washington D.C., are good examples
of symbols that enable survivors to mourn
the dead and establish the historical and
cultural meaning of traumatic events. Most
of all, they serve to remind survivors of
the ongoing potential for communality and
sharing. This also applies to survivors
of other types of traumas…”
From 1990 to 1995, Dr. Irving shared his
ideas with survivors, clinicians, and artists
and listened to their feelings and feedback.
In 1995 a formal business plan for “The
Survivor Monument Project” was developed.
Following numerous strategy and planning
meetings, the first gathering of survivors
met in April, 1996 to launch the project.
By that fall, the project name had evolved
to “The Child Abuse Survivor Monument
Project” and out of an original 12
proposals a "Reaching Out" design
- The vision was to create a visually integrated monumental bronze sculpture produced in collaboration with small groups of survivor and/or artists. The collaborative component of the Monument, the sculpting of the monument quilt, allowed the creation of an independent collection of artworks. The result is a project that is innovative in its process, product, goals and image design.
- During 1996, Dr. Irving supervised a group of survivors and artists in an extensive art research project during which time the elements of the Monument Project such as materials, process, and design were explored. It was determined that a ten inch sculpted quilt square would allow the best visual effect and use of space for a survivor's hand, art and message.
- The initial pilot workshop
for sculpting the quilt squares began in
January 1997. During that year, collaborative
quilt squares for the Monument were created
on a regular basis. Six to eight survivor/artists
worked for eight weeks, each making one
sculpted quilt square and three accompanying
poems. It is noteworthy that most of the
themes and images were about positive messages,
altruism, empowerment and hope for a positive
present and future.
- The quilt squares by survivors and their supporters, both trained and untrained, are remarkable works of art and are in themselves powerful societal and personal statements. Each survivor's life experience provided ample inspiration and focus to artistically create their squares, and these squares in turn portray the overall message of the Monument.
- The creation of the Monument has been a community effort. The design and details of the final monument, the art exhibition and the public awareness campaign were created and refined through small and large group discussions. The project represents the concerted effort of survivors as well as individuals and organizations who lent their support to the outcome.
- In 1997, a Board of Directors formally incorporated a non-profit organization, community supporters formed a "Circle of Friends" and a number of working committees were created. The Monument Project was featured in media stories, held a benefit concert, published newsletters, received long-term commitments for in-kind donations and launched the internet web site.
- Ongoing community outreach and liaison ensured subsequent meetings and committee memberships included representatives from many diverse social agencies, organizations and groups, culminating in the more recent formation of "The Friends of the Monument". All members have a positive interest in children or are working with children, youth or adults who have experienced child abuse.
- As part of the Monument Project, a "HandPrint" campaign was developed to introduce a massive collective visualization of healing and prevention. Across Canada, individuals were invited trace their hand on a sheet of paper and provide a message. Thousands of these HandPrint drawings have been collected and it is intended that they will be sealed in the large space inside the bronze Monument, thereby allowing many people to have a voice and be part of this important message of hope and healing. The "HandPrint" campaign is ongoing today.
- Thanks to the generous contributions from many corporations and individuals, the bronze casting of the first of the two figures that form the Monument was completed in mid-2007 and made available for viewing by the general public. Bronze foundry work on the second of the two monument figures will begin once a site is finalized and the fundraising efforts resumes.
We are requesting the Province
to accept the donation of the "Reaching Out"
Child Abuse Monument and for it to be placed
in a parkette setting at the Northwest corner
of College St. and University Ave. on Queen's
Michael C. Irving, Ph.D., Artistic Director
Child Abuse Survivor Monument Project
274 Rhodes Ave.
Toronto, Ontario, M4L 3A3 Canada
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