Mirror Staff Writer
A Window Between Worlds uses art to turn around the lives of thousands of women and children across the country who have been victims of domestic violence.
The organization is headquartered in Venice and is run by Executive Director Cathy Salser, who “wanted to travel across the country sharing art in a way that would make a difference.” She started the program 15 years ago after sharing her dream with a friend who worked in domestic violence shelters. Salser began by sharing art at different shelters in exchange for room and board. Her “first project involved staying up all night painting a mural in a shelter basement.”
Salser, a former high school art teacher, views “art as a way to open up a window into ourselves through which we can share with each other and grow.” She noticed that after shelter occupants participated in a workshop “the feeling at the beginning and end were completely different. A sense of focus, hope and relief were so present at the end. It’s like a window between worlds.”
This organization is able to operate with a very low budget because they have a handful of paid staff and a cadre of volunteers. Their approach is to train shelter staff across the country to run the program by either having them come to Venice or traveling to them and providing all the art materials, project instructions and other needed support. The organization only requires that the “shelter makes a commitment to providing the program for the clients.” In 2005 they were serving over 21,000 participants in 70 different agencies in 16 states.
The organization hopes to gain more funding and more attention to help better serve the many domestic abuse victims because, says Salser, “Someone is a victim of domestic violence in this country every nine seconds.”
A current project for survivors of domestic violence “is a tree of their journey through domestic violence.” This idea is going to be expanded this summer when, for the first time, community members will be invited to create a community story tree to help the “community create a non-violent future.” In July and August, free squares will be available for individuals to pick up and work on either in the studio or at home. The community tree will then be displayed in October for Domestic Violence Month. If you are interested in participating, call 310.396.0317 or go to www.awbw.org.