COLORADO SPRINGS — In honor of National Denim Day and April as sexual assault awareness month, a local art exhibit is showing the transformation and healing of sexual assault survivors.
The exhibit is called "Finding our Voices, mending hearts through the arts." It's located at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs, and showcases more than 60 pieces of artwork from more than 40 local artists. There are paintings, sculptures, survivor/warrior dolls and survivor's stories.
Finding our Voices, a local nonprofit organization, helped gather artwork for the installation. The non-profit provides monthly art and writing workshops for survivors in the Pikes Peak Region.
"Because art is very transformative for those who have experienced intimate trauma -- any kind of trauma actually," said Joyce Aubrey, who founded the organization in 2008. Aubrey is a survivor herself and has been helping hundreds in the community recover as well.
"We want to advocate for prevention in the community. The survivors will give us a statement about what it meant to them, to do this piece of art, and how it helped them heal," said Aubrey.
"We know that trauma is stored in a different part of the brain, and doing creative activities helps move that trauma to where we have access to it, so we can heal and recover to our authentic selves."
The artwork is hung in exhibits during the month of April, which is sexual assault awareness month. The last Wednesday of the month is Denim Day.
"Denim is a strong and sturdy fabric. We think it is a really appropriate symbol for the strong and sturdy men and women who come through sexual assault," said Aubrey.
Denim Day is all about wearing jeans with a purpose, to educate others about sexual assault, and to support sexual assault survivors like Mary Duefrene Chacon.
"It means a lot to me, because I was wearing jeans. So when I hear people say, that can't possibly happen, it really makes me upset," said Duefrene Chacon.
Duefrene Chacon has been a part of the organization for seven years, and says when she first started creating art, she threw it away. But now, her artwork is something she's proud of.
"When I first started, everything was coming out dark and black," said Duefrene Chacon. "I transformed from darkness to brightness. All my paintings in my house are bright colors, and I love them now. I love it because it transformed me to be happy again, for the first time actually.
"It's amazing how I've also watched other people transform. We have more art than we've ever had before," Duefrene Chacon added.
Finding our Voices offers workshops every month. Class sizes are limited because of the pandemic. There is an option for an online, virtual class. The organization also offers an annual retreat for survivors during the summer. For more information about the organization, click here.