Speaking Out 

We Art Women shines light on violence

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune stated that 1 in 10 teenage girls suffers from dating violence, and many of these victims see physical abuse as normal or even "asked for." This cycle of violence, often passed from parents to children to their partners, can only be broken through education and the existence of safe shelters—like the Women's and Children's Alliance in Boise.

"I fled from Portland, Ore., from a domestic and came here," says domestic violence survivor Teri Ferron. "I had heard about the WCA, but I found a flier that reiterated that there were programs there. It was really, really a difficult time for me. At the same time, because of my job, I made too much money to get any kind of [government] help, but I didn't have enough for us to live on. [The WCA] was the only organization that would help."

Ferron and her sons, now 11 and 16, have since resettled in Boise and started rebuilding their lives. Now Ferron hopes to help other women by speaking out about domestic violence. She'll talk at the annual We Art Women fundraiser—an event that raised $14,000 for the WCA last year.

"Every dollar, every dime that comes through here is critically important to the operation," says Bev LaChance, senior director of social services at WCA. "[We Art Women] is also an awareness vehicle ... it has been a wonderful coupling between the art community and our mission."

Celebration of Women in the Arts was founded 15 years ago by Humpin' Hannah's proprietress, and domestic violence survivor, Rocci Johnson. Though the event spent the majority of its adolescence at rowdy Hannah's, three years ago it slipped into a fancier gown, got a new name—We Art Women—and sauntered into the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy. This year's event includes work from 47 artists, with 20 percent of the proceeds from sales going to the WCA. Also, 17 pieces have been donated for the event's silent and live auctions, including Reham Aarti Jacobsen's mosaic bust Gypsy Dancer, valued at $1,800 and Julie Clemons' colorful oil stick piece Reaching. A panel of five professional artists—Zella Bardsley, Julie Clemons, Miriam Woito, Kristy Albrecht and Marianne Konvalinka—sifted through this year's entries.

"We really had a space problem, so this year, for the first time, we juried the show," says Zella Bardsley. "I think that intimidated a lot of artists from entering because of the jury process. I think they'll feel more comfortable next year now that they've gone through it and everybody's represented still."

Bardsley says implementing a jurying process has helped emerging artists build their resumes while ensuring a level of professionalism that established artists expect.

"It was hard to say 'yes' to this piece and 'no' to this piece, even from the same person," notes Clemons.

In addition to pieces like Lisa Bower's Lion King-esque Golden Canyon and Nancy Panganiban's Rousseau-reminiscent Lost in Flambeau, the benefit will include silent and live auctions featuring various tickets and vacation packages. Though live music and a full pasta buffet from Smoky Mountain Pizza are reasons enough to shell out $25 for a ticket, the most essential is supporting the WCA. As the economy continues to retch, the WCA's most vital services—24-hour crisis hot lines, counselors, shelters, court advocacy—might soon face cutbacks when area women are relying on those services more than ever.

"This economic downturn just continues the stress on families," says Rocci Johnson. "Relationships that are already in a difficult situation, obviously, have been heaped with much more difficulty. It can wind up being acted out with violence. It's just like pouring kerosene on a fire."

While LaChance says it's common for women to delay getting help during tough economic times because of financial worries, she notes that this creates an added burden on counseling staff once they do seek help. But by speaking out, and encouraging women to seek help, domestic violence survivors like Johnson and Ferron hope they can help just one more woman break the cycle.

"I sat down with [my son] and I said, 'What has the WCA done for you, for our family, for us individually?'" says Ferron. "And my 11-year-old, now, he said, 'You know what, Mommy, it's given us trust back in our family again. It's given us the ability to love each other in the ways that we really should love each other.'"

Thursday, Feb. 26, 6-9 p.m., $25, Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, 516 S. Ninth St. For the WCA, call 208-343-3688.

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