Art of Recovery gives voice to victims

Shattered... it's the word Gary Christenson uses to describe how he felt when two of his cars were broken into at his Golden Valley condominium last spring.

"There was a sense that one's safety, or sense of safety, was now kind of shattered," he said. "Someone had systematically gone through the building and had broken in from one to another."

Shattered is also how he describes the glass left behind.

"Broken glass from cars is terrible, it gets everywhere. It's still in the cars somewhere, you find it all the time... but in its own way, if you take it away from the event, it is actually kind of beautiful."
And "Shattered" is the name of a piece of art that Christenson created after the crime. He used shards of the broken glass and superimposed two cell phone pictures of his damaged vehicles to create the work. 

"Shattered" is part of a new exhibit at the Minnesota State Arts Board in St. Paul.  Victims of crimes from across Minnesota have work on display as part of Art of Recovery. It's a project sponsored by the Department of Public Safety to promote Crime Victim's Rights Week. 

Christenson has long valued the healing power of art. His own paintings dot the halls of the Boynton Mental Health Clinic at the University of Minnesota, where he is director. He was drawn to the Art of Recovery project because years in the mental health field have taught him to value the artistic process.

"It was obvious to me that for some individuals this was the best way for them to be able to express what had happened to them," he said. 

At times uncomfortable and often intensely personal, some of the pieces reflect vicious crimes of abuse or murder. Each of them serves as a vivid portrayal.

"The idea is to show how art can be used as a way to process the experience of being a victim of crime," said Dennis Smith, information officer for the Department of Public Safety.  "Many of the artists are clearly at different stages in their recovery, some still express a great deal of anger and frustration and at the other end of the spectrum is a sense of hope, forgiveness, optimism, recovery."
The 8th annual Art of Recovery exhibit will be on display through June. A public reading of the literary submissions will happen Sunday, April 29, at the Minnesota State Arts Board.

"The show gives these particular artists a chance for their voice to be heard," said Smith, "and we know from years past that this opportunity is instrumental in many victims' recovery."

Jennifer Anderson reporting

April 25, 2012


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