Pittsburgh paints the way towards domestic violence awareness

Local artists host event to raise awareness and share their stories


Painting by Chrissy Sauders

Local artists in Pittsburgh raise awareness for domestic violence victims.

David Heilman, North Campus Staff

Domestic violence happens everywhere. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic violence, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Of those victims, over 60% go without pressing charges or seeking professional help for their situation: A crime left silent.

On September 19, a few brave Pittsburgh locals broke the silence in the most colorful way. Purple Beats and Brushes was an Art Show dedicated to increasing awareness of domestic violence. “We just want to bring awareness to the crimes that happen behind closed doors,” stated Anaeja Halliburton, one of the volunteers at the program.

The show featured eleven artists from a variety of backgrounds and talents. Several music acts led off the night, including a performance by the University of Pittsburgh Women’s Choral Ensemble and a unique performance by Perry Rusen-Morohovich, a talented bassoonist. Poetry readings by Bluu Jay and Richard Sun moved the audience, although it was the first time either performed in public.

Visual artists Alexandria Gariepy and Morgan Overton, and poetry by Sara and Crissy Suders were the body of the night’s performances. Added variety came in the form of a dance performance by a London Parris choreographer.  Each artist who shared their work had a story attached with it, highlighted by one of the last performers of the night. Ariel Barlow, a multimedia artist at the event, scratched the surface of her story.

“I started my art after being attacked by my fiancé. A lot of my work is from things you find around the household: cardboard, paper towels, wires, and beads. I didn’t have the money for art supplies, but I had the strong urge to create.” The program was coordinated by Guilise Gondre, a student at Pitt School of Social Work. The program acted as a chance for artists to share their stories of surviving domestic violence in a creative way. The inspiration came from Gondre’s own survival experiences.

“The passion to do this was rooted in personal experiences with domestic violence and a strong desire to create a platform for women, men and trans people who have experienced domestic violence in any way.” The night was moving and true to its message, with stories of survivors losing their own identity, struggling with violence and oppression, and finding a home in a furry husky on a winter night.

These artists shared their stories to bring awareness not only to the struggles that exist in their world, but also as a way for people like them to cope and express. Guilise said it best herself in the closing statement. “Art has been a way for a majority of the artists here tonight to relieve the pain associated with their experiences and we are spreading the word that art has healing powers”.