Community, People

Student-designed mural supports victims of violence against women

May 25, 2015

Left to Right: Jenna Roy, Sarah Feehan, Melissa Phen. Not Pictured: Amanda Morhart

When Bachelor of Education candidate Jenna Roy and her fellow classmates wanted to show their support for victims of violence against women, they put down their schoolbooks and picked up their paintbrushes.

Roy and classmates Sarah Feehan, Melissa Phen and Amanda Morhart recognized violence against women as an ongoing concern in the local community. As such, they set out to create a visual representation of the courage victims must possess to move on from these violent encounters.

“We wanted to do something, as a group of women, to show our support for a group of women who had experienced these types of hardships,” said Roy.

They created a mural depicting a purple scarf wrapped around and intertwined in a forest of birch trees in the fall. The purple scarf represents the Wrapped in Courage campaign, an annual campaign by Ontario women’s shelters that encourages women to wear purple shawls to raise awareness of woman abuse. The birch trees symbolize new beginnings.

“Fall is a time for letting go and cleansing,” said Feehan. “Some Aboriginal communities associate birch trees with readying oneself for regrowth, for seeing the hope ahead, so the trees were an incredibly appropriate element to include.”

After weeks of work the artists wanted to ensure their mural reached as many women as possible. As such, they donated the work to London Women’s Community House, Canada’s largest high-security shelter for abused women and their children.

Pamela Coray, Development Manager at London Women’s Community House, said the painting will be permanently displayed in the residential part of the organization, and will have a big impact on residents.

“It will be inspiring for them,” said Coray. “The fact it was other women who created this wonderful work of art, this emblem of support and courage, means everything. It’s a tangible way to show that women in the community understand, and our residents will draw strength from that.”

The painting was a collaborative effort. Before putting brushes to canvas, Roy and her classmates worked with Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) manager Anna-Lee Straatman to learn more about the impact violence can have on the lives of victims. They then worked with Faculty of Education lecturer Polly Stringle, who teaches visual art curriculum courses, to bring their vision for the painting to life.

“It’s very important to give back to the community,” said Stringle. “I was thrilled to be part of this project and delighted with the amazing results of this incredible group of young women.”

The project was a great learning opportunity for everyone, said Roy.

“We’re really happy with the way it turned out,” she said. “The collaboration with the Faculty and the Community, and the painting itself. It’s a lasting gift to us all.”