In late fall of 2021, Amy Crook had an idea. Through her work with folks experiencing trauma, and a project for a community development University program, she envisioned a community art project to create awareness and conversations around one of the difficult topics that often lead to trauma – gender-based violence.
Soon after, she approached Comox Valley Arts to partner on the project, and with the collaboration of Comox Valley Transition Society, Amy’s vision became reality. To mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – a global campaign each year from November 25 to December 10 – 100s of free stitch kits were distributed throughout the valley. Stitching sessions were held at the VI Library branches, at The Spool Sewing Studio, at Miki’Siw Metis Association… people of all ages, abilities and experiences participated in creating artwork that made a statement about, against or exposing the harms of gender-based violence. Many also created affirmations of strength, wisdom, resilience, consent and personal power. As well, this process was carefully documented by Beckett Hutchinson and the Youth Media Project and turned into a short film.
“As a counsellor for children, youth and their caregivers who have experienced family violence, I have conversations about gender-based violence every day,” says Crook. “While this is beneficial at an individual level, there is a critical conversation with our community that is missing. Lots of common injustices aren’t talked about openly due to discomfort and stigma. The often intimate nature of gender-based violence, and the tendency for survivors to not be believed, compounds that discomfort and isolates people further. I do a lot of sewing and hand stitching. It occurred to me that stitching might be a way address this difficult topic which requires connection for healing. When I’m sewing or hand stitching I often find it much easier to slow down, reflect and notice my thoughts, so I thought facilitating stitching in the context of reflecting on gender-based violence could be a tool for many of us. If stitching can bring us together to explore these issues through creativity and conversation, maybe we will get closer to knowing how to help change it individually and collectively.”
Over 200 completed stitched squares were returned to be included in this exhibit. Those squares were turned into 9 handmade quilts with the support of numerous volunteer stitchers and quilters, including the Merville Grandmothers.
The project coordinators are so proud and heart-filled to be able to present these quilts, and all the love, compassion, vision and power that they embody, to our community in this very special exhibit. The Community Stitch Project Exhibit: Hearts and Hands in Community Speaking Out About Gender-Based Violence will be on display from May 15 thru 17, outdoors at the Sid Williams Plaza. The exhibit will be open from Noon to 4pm each day. The organizing team are grateful for the opportunity to offer this exhibit on the unceded territory of K’omoks First Nation. The exhibit has been funded by the Department of Justice Canada.
The exhibit includes a multi-media component of recorded and printed stories, submitted with the squares, testifying to people’s unique yet all-too-common personal experiences with gender-based violence, and their inspiring survival and triumph in spite of it.
Attendees will have the opportunity to record their own stories in various ways if they wish, for inclusion in future exhibits. All recordings are also available on a free web app for listening and recording privately from your mobile device.
“The way this project has gathered our community’s voices, in both the stitching and storytelling, supports each other in wellness, and builds an important conversation that has blown away all of us working on this project!” says CV/Arts Executive Director, Dallas Stevenson.
The community is invited to stop by for a cup of tea, to view and experience the quilts, to contribute at the reflection station, to listen to and watch the media presentations, and to participate in story sharing if desired. Everyone is welcome.
Where & When:
May 15, 16 & 17, Noon – 4pm Daily, outdoors at Sid Williams Theatre Plaza (5th & Cliffe)
Learn more at www.comoxvalleyarts.com/csp