The Survivor Empowerment and Ally Support program of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center held their 14th annual art show, “rEVOLUTION: Making Art for Change,” on Sunday in Rackham’s East Conference Room. The show featured themes of gender, sexism, sexualized violence, empowerment, healing and growth. It also exhibited numerous art mediums, including photography, paintings, mixed-media installations, written word, sculpture and video. Submission of art in the show were open to University of Michigan students, faculty and staff.
Engineering senior Camille Gilbert and LSA senior Danielle Hunter are the co-coordinators of SEAS and in charge of coordinating the main events run by the program.
Gilbert said the purpose of the event was to creatively demonstrate survivors of sexual assault.
“The role of this is basically to recognize and showcase the unique and important role creative expression has in healing for survivors of sexualized violence,” Gilbert said.
Hunter said the event aimed to create a safe space for its audience, and incorporated relaxing music, a SAPAC resources table and a reception.
“Another key goal of the art show is to create a space where survivors feel safe in sharing their stories,” Hunter said. “And where allies can see a certain perspective of the survivor experience and then empathize with that experience, which then creates a larger culture of empathy and support at the University of Michigan.”
LSA junior Jessica Hobbs was appointed this semester as the coordinator of the rEVOLUTION event. She worked with other SAPAC leaders to organize the art submissions, art selection and overall event operations.
“My work with SAPAC has been pretty arts-focused,” Hobbs said. “I think art bridges the gap between a lot of political movements and stories. (The stories) are really personal but also really relatable. I think there’s a tragic beauty to healing that people don’t get to see that often.”
LSA senior Sarah Saks-Fithian showcased some of her artwork at the exhibit, including sculptures, ceramics and a collaborative art project she created with the SAPAC support group she leads.
“I use art as a method of my own kind of therapy and healing,” Saks-Fithian said. “(Making ceramics) is something that helped me get control of my body and feel a lot more connected to myself.”
She showcased a variety of ceramics she calls her “Goddesses,” which portrayed female bodies of different skin tones with stretch marks, cellulite and uneven breasts — which she said don’t conform to normative expectations and challenges the pervasive commodification, dehumanization and sexualization of women’s bodies in society. Saks-Fithian sells some of her artwork through her Instagram page, @empowerpottery.
“By preserving these things in ceramic, which will outlive me, I think it shows some deference to the beauty of the body and that it’s beautiful it its innate existence, and that it’s not just there for sex,” Saks-Fithian said.
Saks-Fithian also showcased an art garden crafted by her SAPAC peer-led support group, which sought to represent the beauty within growth and healing. Peer-led support groups meet twice a week and is a drop-in, confidential healing space for University students who identify as survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment or stalking. According to an artist statement crafted by Saks-Fithian’s support group, the group was inspired by the proverb: “They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.”
Sebastian Capp, an LSA senior and a member of SAPAC’s Prevention Regarding Instances of Sexual Misconduct program, visited the art exhibit to show solidarity with the survivors.
“I think all the pieces of art are empowering in their own way,” Capp said. “For me, the courage that it took to even create these pieces and share their stories is beyond words.”
Confidential support and academic advocacy can be found with SAPAC on their 24-hour crisis line, 734-936-3333 and at https://sapac.umich.edu/.