It was raining in Canterbury yesterday and I had enough change in my pocket for a cup of tea. I wasn’t meeting a friend for another hour. ‘Do I risk it and try and make my drink last an hour?’, I thought to myself.
Deciding against the tea, I strolled down to the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge after hearing that there was a new exhibition in The Front Room (the room on the left-hand side when you walk in) by Rising Sun, a service for those who have suffered domestic violence and abuse. I took my slender form up the brown steps, a favourite spot for buskers during the summer months, and slouched my way into the hallway, shaking the cold from my arms.
I usually try to read all the information provided before trying to sink my teeth into the work itself. That way I can make my mind up on whether or not I think I understand it. This was different though; this was information about Rising Sun, not about the work produced – so I stood there, sort of lost with no explanation of what the art was. It took me all of five minutes to realize that, when I used to live in a women’s refuge as a child, this must have been the place that had supported my family.
For that alone, I can never repay them.
I moved on to the art, squares of work on the walls, messages of hope etched into drawings, penned stories that say ‘There is hope’ and ‘Things will get better’.
Now, I was not expecting this; I had been told that Rising Sun was the name of a Domestic violence charity, and in turn, I sort of expected the messages to convey a sense of darkness about them, as if the veneer was beginning to crack. That was not here. For all the hope that I saw, I also the truthful realization that you don’t need to feel this way forever; the bright colours and creative stylings of service users detailing how they felt and more importantly, how they feel, now that they have been helped.
I found myself tearing up, alone in a giant room but no longer by myself, I felt the presence of everyone around me. I was infused with their art, with their words, and with their lives. Every sentence I read about their stories filled me with more hope. They were just one watercolour world away from me, a cousin twice removed, but I felt that I knew them.
Until the 21st January, the exhibition in the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge will be highlighting Project Liberty, a long-term mentoring project in Canterbury, Ashford and Swale, supporting girls and young women at risk of exploitation and abuse. The exhibition also features Rising Sun’s work with adolescent boys, showcasing their views on building positive and healthy relationships.