Art offers safe expression, provides awareness

The cultivation of proper mental health is an enduring topic. Last Thursday night, It’s On Us collaborated with the Psych Society to host Raising Awareness Through Art at Jo’s. The event illuminated topics of mental wellness and sexual violence with personal and shared expression. A variety of art, including singing, slam poetry and monologues captured an intimate evening and created a safe space.

The organization made sure to address the statistic which states that one in five women are survivors of sexual assault; the often unheard voices of male and LGBTQ+ survivors were mentioned as well. Insight on mental health, which includes one’s emotional, psychological and social well-being, was also explicated. A call to action was exhorted, setting the stage for a momentous night.

10 St. Edward’s students took the stage to perform, followed by readings from three Spider House Poetry performers— Austin’s premiere showcase of slam poetry. The acts exemplified the coexistence of vulnerability and strength to provoke empowerment.

In light of Action Week, the organization facilitated “Purple Thursday”. Individuals were encouraged to wear purple to bring awareness to interpersonal violence, advocate against it and showcase their support of survivors. Additionally, the organization created a ribbon tree as another means of showing support to survivors. Students and faculty alike were invited to write messages of encouragement and tie them to the tree by Andre Hall. A blessing of the tree by Rev. Peter Walsh took place on Friday afternoon.

The diversity of the performances highlighted different aspects of what it truly means to oppose violence. Community is a strong force, and with communal activism comes swift progression. It is the catalyst which turns a brief moment into a movement. St. Edward’s student D’Vonna Miller was one of the student performers at the event. She performed an original song and urged the audience to sing along during the chorus, later stating “It is a nice feeling to know you are not alone, which is why I like singing a song that encourages participation.” Miller believes, “It makes the experience more direct and personal.”

In many instances, many forget about, or are simply not exposed to the realities of mental health issues and sexual violence. “The goal is to raise awareness through art. Talking about these issues makes them more relevant,” stated Alma Baker, It’s On Us President. It is crucial to have the means of advocating transcend the academic realm and be made evident through the arts as well. By doing so, discussion is sparked, thus leading to effective action.

The overall atmosphere was one of power and perseverance. “I was in absolute awe by the talent. It was enlightening” expressed Val Vial, an attendee of the event. “And I think it’s important to support this cause as much as possible.”

The conclusion of the event left a message of hope: The things that happen to you do not have to dictate what happens in the future. The loud and unapologetic expression of experiences which are often relegated to whispers resonated with all who witnessed. To present a work of art was a feat of barrier breaking, made comfortable by the sincerity of the performers, and effortless by the empathetic spirit of the crowd.

The most substantial piece of advice to be gleaned was one of simplicity: “Most importantly, remember to take care of yourself,” said Alma Baker. It is safe to say that all who attended left the event with a broadened perspective. The presence of powerful emotion encapsulated a shared aura of passion—an experience unparalleled—deeming Raising Awareness Through Art a complete success.