“This is how art gave way to healing,” she said. “We witnessed pain and strength, side by side, again and again.”
As part of the process, both women tapped their professional training to further facilitate the healing. Lovell holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and art from the University of Richmond, a master’s degree in transformative art, and a master’s certificate in leadership for sustainable change and entrepreneurial leadership. She is a certified domestic violence advocate and the recipient of the 2012 Arts & Healing Network Award.
A 2012 graduate from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Nolan currently works as a mental health counselor for youths in Albuquerque, N.M.
As part of the Shelter to Shelter project, the residents were asked to consider what empowerment feels like, what pearls of wisdom they could offer another person in their situation and what community resources they felt were most critical in supporting families dealing with domestic violence.
“We heard survivors in separate regions of the country talk of the importance of speaking out against violence rather than remaining in silent shame, of honoring themselves and practicing self-respect ... the need for more low-income housing and for education about nonviolence ... for empathy from their communities,” Nolan recalled.
Part adventure, part art project, part activism, Nolan said the project was, from the beginning, “a dream job” for her.
For five weeks, she and Lovell traveled cross-country, at times literally living out of a converted minivan — with a refrigerator and a sink in the back and two portable gas stoves for cooking. When they weren’t near a motel, Nolan slept on a pop-up bed on top of the van, with Lovell in a tent on the ground nearby.
Traveling this way offered a unique perspective into the lives of the women in the shelters she was visiting, Nolan said.