Raising domestic violence awareness

On a brisk Saturday night, Bowling Green radiated with its usual weekend excitement, along with a leftover high from WKU’s double-overtime win against rival MTSU that afternoon. Houses were lit, people stood on porches and music blared from shabbily-shuttered windows along Park, State, College and Center streets.

On Kentucky Street, a different celebration was happening, one in honor of a particularly pertinent cause.

FFOYA House, a local community arts venue on Kentucky Street, partnered with Barren River Area Safe Space, Inc. in hosting a benefit music and art show in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Oct. 15.

Local musicians including Former Friends of Young Americans and Eva Ross performed to raise money for domestic violence awareness. Other involved artists included Courtney Davis, Christine Travis, Brooke Hume, Ariana Michaela, Lora Gill, Teresa Christmas, Emily Lobb Hendricksen and Alison Taylor.

The event featured art with themes relating to domestic violence awareness, said Toby Fatzinger, FFOYA House co-founder.

“We have a volunteer committee which selects the art for our exhibitions,” Fatzinger said. “We do different themed exhibitions. This one [was] based on themes of empowerment, survival and themes related to that.”

FFOYA House recently hosted a similar event with Hope Harbor, but this is the first time they have partnered with BRASS, Inc., Fatzinger said.

BRASS, Inc. provides shelter and programs for hundreds of domestic abuse victims each year in Warren County and surrounding areas. Last year, they housed almost 400 individuals who had experienced some form of domestic violence. Along with its shelter program, BRASS, Inc. offers services such as crisis intervention, 24-hour crisis lines and comprehensive children’s services.

The FFOYA House concert is one of several events that BRASS, Inc. has planned for October. Other events include candlelight vigils, a professional clothing pop-up shop for assault victims and balloon release ceremonies, which will take place in Warren and surrounding counties.

Pam Hurt, BRASS, Inc. assistant director, said this was all intentional.

“Knowing October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, [FFOYA House] thought this would be a great time to tie in the two issues: promote domestic violence awareness working hand-in-hand with BRASS and display pieces that reflect some sort of domestic violence, whether it be through interpretive art or a photograph or however they see it,” Hurt said.

Representatives Stephanie Menser and Ava McBride from BRASS, Inc. attended the house show and spoke on behalf of their organization. Menser, a housing advocate for the shelter, said it was her personal experience with domestic violence as a child that inspired her to get involved with BRASS, Inc. Now, she works to “get people back on their feet” and help them face their struggles.

“Everyday when I work, I see this light in clients, in their eyes,” Menser said. “I see their struggles, but I also see how they’ve overcome those.”

Menser and McBride set up an ornate mirror at the event. On small pieces of paper, participants wrote qualities and ideas that would not be silenced by domestic violence, such as “passion,” “art” and “love.” Then they stuck the paper to the mirror, affirming their stance against domestic abuse.

“Domestic violence is something that can be silencing, but it’s not going to silence us today,” Menser said.

Some of the participating artists also endured emotional or physical abuse themselves or through family and close friends. Eva Ross, a singer-songwriter and WKU alumna who currently resides in Nashville, said that she has written some of her songs about an emotionally abusive relationship in her past.

“I feel like my lyrics can probably resonate with someone who has experienced some sort of domestic violence,” Ross said.

Ross said she wants to be as authentic as possible with the audience, and her goal is to share everything she can with those who see her perform.

“I just try to be as vulnerable as I can be with everything I’m sharing,” Ross said. “I don’t feel good about my performance unless I revealed everything that I feel like I need to reveal to people,” Ross said.

Another artist who participated in the event said she showed a more vulnerable side of her work for this show. Teresa Christmas, the owner of Art Matters Community Gallery and Studio, had close experiences with domestic violence and BRASS, Inc. Christmas said that the painting she provided for this event was one of her darkest.

“The piece focuses on the children and how the domestic violence situation affected them,” Christmas said. “It’s the darkest thing I’ve ever painted. I think the painting is sad.”

Christmas said that events like the benefit show are important to Bowling Green’s community as a whole, not just the artists.

“Domestic violence can happen, and it does happen every day,” Christmas said.