The winners of the annual ArtsInStark Special Project Grants have been announced, and I am proud to report that Okey’s Promise is one of them! In collaboration with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc., we have developed a more in-depth project, and it has been awarded $5000 by ArtsInStark, the Stark County, OH county arts council!
The grant monies will be combined with the money contributed by Okey’s Promise Keepers, which, to date amounts to $2738. Matching funds were required to qualify, so the Promise Keepers made it possible for us to be awarded the grant. Thank you ArtsInStark, and THANK YOU OKEY’S PROMISE KEEPERS!!! We still could use additional funds, so if you are interested, please consider contributing via the ChipIn widget in the sidebar.
I am excited to be working with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc., which is a very progressive organization that works with survivors of domestic violence in Stark County, Ohio. I am very grateful to them, and in particular, their Executive Director, Melissa Pearce, who has been deeply supportive of the Okey’s Promise mission. Melissa contributed personally to the first project and she has been by my side every step of the way with the overall Okey’s Promise concept. Melissa is also coordinating with a local effort to provide foster care opportunities for pets from families affected by domestic violence. The effort will work to ensure that pet care is not an impediment for securing safety for vulnerable individuals.
The new Okey’s Promise project has evolved and includes a youth and community focus that extends beyond the original project design. The following is the description of the project that was submitted to ArtsInStark:
When animals are suffering in society, children are too. When there is violence to animals, there is likely violence to children and others who may be defenseless. – Artist BZTAT via Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause
A number of high profile violent crimes in the Stark County area have alarmed citizens in recent years. Many of these crimes involved domestic violence, and many were either perpetrated against, or witnessed by, children. National statistics inform us that children who witness or experience such violence are at great risk for becoming violent perpetrators themselves or being adult victims who expect to be abused.
Statistics also inform us that abuse to animals is significantly correlated with domestic violence and child abuse. Women often remain in violent situations because they have no place for beloved pets to go when they and their children go to shelters. Abusers often manipulate their victims through threats or actual violence to pets. Children who experience violence often express their trauma by harming animals, and many later become violent towards people as well.
The Domestic Violence Project, Inc. (DVPI) is deeply concerned about the youth served through its agency programs. DVPI is currently exploring opportunities to develop shelter options for pets so that Stark County victims of abuse can reach safety for themselves and their animals. In this effort, DVPI and artist Vicki Boatright (known as BZTAT) are collaborating to bring intense focus and awareness to these issues, and assist children affected by violence through an innovative art project.
DVPI and BZTAT intend to work with at-risk youth, encouraging them to use art as a means of self-expression and healing. In addition to the therapeutic benefit of creative expression, young participants will also benefit from humane education in the process, integrating empathy, compassion, integrity, wisdom and knowledge into their value system.
The artist will work alongside an art therapist with children and adolescents in groups, encouraging them to express themselves creatively about their experiences. The artist will then use the artwork created by the youth in a series of 10-12 professional artworks (approx. 48” H x 32” W each) that relate to the links between animal abuse, domestic violence and child abuse. These artworks will become a traveling exhibit that will be used locally by DVPI and other interested agencies at events and other designated activities to raise awareness about the issues of domestic violence and pet abuse. The artist will assist DVPI through public speaking and other activities during and after the project in a public awareness campaign.
This project is innovative on a number of fronts: 1) It empowers children and adolescents who have experienced the pain of domestic violence to utilize creativity as a means for healing, behavioral redirection and humane education. 2) It allows children to work with a professional artist to create an important piece of public art that educates and informs the public about serious issues. 3) It brings important public awareness to the well researched yet little known facts connecting animal abuse and domestic violence. 4) It assists in the promotion and development of pet shelter options for those seeking refuge from domestic violence in Stark County. 5) The artist involved has been nationally recognized for her innovative approaches to raising awareness for serious issues through art and also for creative fund raising for her projects (social media, Kickstarter, ChipIn, etc.).
Work on the project will begin in January 2012. Stay tuned and be sure to follow us on Facebook to get the latest updates!