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October 4, 2013

Messages of hope and love

West Newbury native uses 'traveling postcards' to connect with survivors of domestic abuse

The transformative power of the arts to heal was the inspiration that fueled a cross-country road trip for one West Newbury native this past summer.

Juliette Nolan, a 2008 Pentucket graduate who grew up in the Church Street home where her parents, Peter and Phyllis, still live, joined Caroline Lovell, founder of the nonprofit Women’s Wisdom Initiative, on the five-week trip they dubbed “Shelter to Shelter.”

Designed to “bring voice, healing and wisdom” to survivors of domestic violence and other forms of oppression, the project connected Nolan and Lovell with residents of abused-women shelters across the country in places like Portland, Ore.; Glasgow and Casper, Wyo.; Aurora, Ill.; Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota; Pittsburg, Kan.; Charleston, W.V.; Asheville, N.C.; Austin, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M.

When they arrived at a shelter, Nolan and Lovell presented residents with homemade postcards created by other women in similar circumstances elsewhere. They then led art workshops to provide the residents time and space to create their own inspirational “traveling postcards” — which Nolan and Lovell would pack up and deliver to the next shelter along their journey.

“We brought an abundance of art materials for collaging, poured them all over big tables, explained the endeavor, and watched again and again as each collaborator — who inevitably doubted her artistic capacity at the outset — created truly beautiful pieces of art,” Nolan said.

Because they knew their postcards would travel to other people in shelter, the artists took care to infuse their creations with words and images of encouragement, faith and understanding.

“We asked them to draw from the pain of their past and resilience of their present to inspire them creatively and link them to a large chain of survivors, a process which required them to identify with the incredible strength they exhibited in separating themselves from the abusive situation and starting over in shelter,” Nolan said.

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