Featured / Education / 17th November 2023
Art sheds light on hidden stories
The ‘UNSEEN Arts Hub’ rolled into Coonabarabran on Tuesday, 14 November, harnessing art to create a safe space and raise awareness of domestic violence and women’s homelessness.
Launched on International Women’s Day in 2021, the UNSEEN Arts Hub is a mobile art installation made up of a chrome-finished house, car and couches.
These reflective surfaces serve as a metaphor for how homeless women can often go unseen.
The UNSEEN Arts Hub aims to use this art to raise public awareness of the complex and unexpected circumstances leading to women’s hidden homelessness.
Across Australia, more than 50,000 women are experiencing homelessness, with domestic violence and financial abuse being the most frequent causes.
For many of these women, the fear of judgement causes them toactivelyavoidsupport services, either staying in a violent situation or becoming homeless after leaving.
This hidden nature of women’s homelessness can obscure the real extent of homelessness among women in Australia, as those who do not seek help often go unnoticed.
Peta Link is a survivor of domestic violence, who has become homeless several times during her life as a result.
Ms Link said she was fortunate enough to reach out and get the help she needed, and now works as a caseworker at a domestic violence service.
She also holds art workshops within the arts hub, working with survivors of domestic violence.
“It has its own language, and sometimes people might not want to go to a therapist, so this is an alternative way for them to be able to express their feelings and experiences through art and community,” Ms Link said.
Holding a coolamon- making workshop on the day, Ms Link said she sees these as a metaphor for what we carry with us, as a reminder to focus on what you need and not need to carry the weight of negative experiences.
“Being allowed to speak my truth, of surviving domestic violence and homelessness, through art is very empowering,” she said.
Kristy Lee Bolch
Kristy Lee Bolch is a support worker for a homelessness program, supporting Indigenous clients.
Ms Bolch holds weaving workshops to help connect victims of domestic violence back to culture.
“Weaving is a great ‘yarnstarter’forwomen to share their stories, and it gives the shy ones something to do with their hands, so they feel more comfortable opening up,” Ms Bolch said.
She said the imperfection in weaving can also act as a metaphor for how life can be imperfect at times, but that you can still make something beautiful out of it.
“We also make dilly bags, which act as a place where you can mentally store your strengths and values; in my dilly bag I have my mob, my kindness, my compassion and my worth,” she said.
“The whole idea is to connect women to culture and support their emotional and mental wellbeing.”
Fiona Arnold is an artist who was approached to be part of the UNSEEN Arts Hub after experiencing homelessness herself.
Ms Arnold said she had the idea to create an artwork that highlights women’s homelessness and how it can affect people from all walks of life.
Her artwork, called ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ features shoes of women who have experienced homelessness due to various circumstances including domestic violence, with their stories attached to the shoes.
“It’s a safe way for people to talk about their experiences, while also giving people an opportunity to quietly reflect on these issues,” Ms Arnold said.
“And it’s not just for women who have experienced domestic violence, but also for those who advocate for women every day and why they do the important work they do.”
Ms Arnold said the shoesactasametaphor for how women in domestic violence situations can often only leave with the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet.
One particularly powerful example in the exhibit shows a single shoe, highlighting just how rushed and stressful these situations can be.
“It also shows the diversity of these situations – it affects everyone of all ages and backgrounds.
“Homelessness is everyone’s business,” Ms Arnold said.
“Don’t judge homeless women till you have walked a mile in their shoes.”
To donate to the UNSEEN Arts Hub, please visit https://unseen.house/donate-to-unseen/