‘Art of Recovery’ gives crime victims an outlet

Published 11:53 am Thursday, September 20, 2012

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — In the U.S., an estimated 18.7 million people age 12 or older experienced violent or property crimes in 2010 — 18.7 million sons and daughters, neighbors, coworkers and friends.

But after the police investigation is complete and justice done, those 18.7 million have to deal with the residual effects of the crime, from emotional trauma to the loss of the feeling of safety.

And now “Art of Recovery,” a juried exhibit in the Atwood Gallery at St. Cloud State University, features artwork by Minnesota victims.

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“I think it’s important to honor people who survived horrendous crimes,” Lee LaDue, the gender violence prevention coordinator at St. Cloud State’s Women’s Center, told the St. Cloud Times. “It’s a reminder to all of us . we need to work together to end those crimes. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

The show is a joint venture of the Office of Justice Programs, a division of the Department of Public Safety, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. It was previously exhibited in St. Paul and Rochester.

The total show had about 75 pieces from 30 artists, but only half were brought to St. Cloud because of space constraints.

The types of crimes include arson, burglary, robbery, impaired driving, domestic abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping, incest, rape and murder. Artists came from all over Minnesota.

The exhibit educates the public, but its creation also can be therapeutic and cathartic for the artists.

“They’re making a public statement; it’s healing for them,” LaDue said. “It’s also very healing for other survivors to see that kind of art . the courage of others speaking out about what happened to them.”

Artist statements accompany the artwork, some that explain the crime or how the artist has been dealing with emotions. As a result, LaDue said to make sure to leave some time to view the exhibit. Some deal with very intense trauma and pretty raw emotion, she said.

“People should know that and really set some time aside,” she said.

LaDue, who’s worked with victims for 20 years, was struck by the power of the exhibit.

“Art reaches people in a different way,” she said. “I think it really does have an impact, a positive impact on our community.”

Eight years ago, the Office of Justice Programs made a call for art from crime victims to illustrate the range of emotions victims and their families experience. They displayed the art in a show to commemorate Crime Victims Week in April.

The show was an opportunity for crime victims to express themselves, said Danette Buskovick, the director of training, research and communications for Office of Justice Programs.

“They get validation for what they experience,” she said. “They sometimes are always seen as a victim, now they can be seen as an artist as well.”

The artwork also allows them to process the crime.

“People don’t give [victims] a lot of time to process,” Buskovick said. But the art allows them to examine feelings in a way you can’t with words, she said.

The next year, the Office of Justice Programs partnered with the Minnesota State Arts Board, which showed the exhibit in its building in St. Paul.

This year, organizers decided to bring the artwork to outstate Minnesota, displaying the show in Rochester this summer and now in St. Cloud through Oct. 25.

It took a while to get the exhibit to St. Cloud, LaDue said. LaDue was familiar with the annual exhibit, and she worked with committees on campus to bring the show to the area.

Some programs in the area already use art as therapy, including the St. Cloud VA Health Care System, Coborn Cancer Center and St. Cloud Hospital’s Recovery Plus. Anna Marie’s Alliance employs an art therapist part-time. A survivor’s group that meets at the Women’s Center also sometimes uses art and drawing as exercises. LaDue also would be interested in increasing that use.

The exhibit’s artwork and literary works can be viewed online as well as at the gallery, and a booklet prepared about some of the pieces with accompanying statements is available at the gallery. Resources to help crime victims are also available at the site.