By Casey Crow
Special to The PREVIEW
On Sept. 29, you are invited to join in an evening of artistry and activism as Rise Above Violence hosts its annual art exhibit and auction.
Art Above Violence: Voices Rise aims to raise awareness and cultivate healing by transforming the stories of violence survivors into works of art. The event showcases artistry in all forms. It will move, inspire and entertain you, all while supporting an incredible local organization. Included in the lineup of this year’s artists are Denise Chaney and Heather Rose.
Chaney was raised in Monte Vista, Colo. She attended Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, studying interior design, music and fashion merchandising. She now lives in Pagosa Springs with her husband, Jarrett, and son Jackson. Chaney is one of the few artists presenting a live performance piece at Voices Rise.
Chaney began singing in church at the age of 5 and has always loved music and creative expression. She has recorded three albums as part of the duo Jason and Denise. This past year, she released her first solo project, titled “Unraveling,” which is accompanied by a book that includes the inspiration behind the songs, questions, coloring pages and Bible verses.
“I have learned in the past several years the importance of doing what you love and using creativity in whatever capacity you can right where you are. I believe that God has uniquely gifted us and delights to see us use our gifts to make a difference in the lives of the people we interact with on a daily basis,” she explained.
Last year, Chaney showcased both an original song and a Batik (a painting on fabric using wax and dye) at the Art Above Violence event.
“I was moved by the stories from the survivors and encouraged by their strength. I feel that the show is an important way for our community to honor those who often feel like they don’t have a voice. By being a part of the show, I get to use my gifts to tell someone else’s really important story … The only way to dispel darkness is to shine a light on it, and that’s what this show does,” she stated.
For Voices Rise, Chaney has prepared another original song that is meant to encourage listening and belief. It is called, “I Hear You and I Believe You.” It is based on the story of a mother and a young girl who is a survivor of domestic violence. The young girl was courageous enough to tell her mother about abuse from another member of the family.
According to Chaney, the mother encouraged others to break the silence around abuse by saying, “Don’t be afraid to speak up or it won’t stop. Be the one to put an end to the violence that has already occurred, no matter how little you think it might be.”
Chaney highlighted the issue that children’s voices often go unheard simply because they are young or because adults choose not to believe them.
“I am so proud of their bravery in speaking up when it would have been easier to be silent. We can’t stop domestic violence if no one is brave enough to speak up. With the theme this year being Voices Rise, I felt that this was the perfect theme for the song. Not only is it meant to encourage people to speak up and use their voice, but it is also meant to encourage people to hear and believe,” Chaney said.
Joining Chaney in this year’s art show and auction is Rose. Rose was born in Japan to missionary parents and later raised in New Jersey. She has called Colorado home since 1998, having attended Colorado Christian University and living in Pagosa for the last 11 years. Rose is currently a middle school teacher at Pagosa Valor and Pagosa Family School.
Rose believes everyone is an artist in some way.
“Making art is just another form of play. Art, whether you are the one creating it or seeing it, allows you participate in something bigger than yourself. I also believe art is meant to connect us to God and fellow humans to each other in a life-giving, joyful manner,” she said.
Watercolor is a favorite artistic medium for Rose. She enjoys the fact that watercolor tends to have a mind of its own.
“There is no erasing or painting over watercolor in the same way you can with oil or acrylic, so you have to live with anything you might call ‘mistakes.’ Water will do what water does. Colors bloom from the end of a paintbrush into wet paper in a way that surprises and delights. It dries in ways that I don’t always anticipate. I especially enjoy working with saturated colors and with paints that have a bit of shine to it so that the art will look different depending on what angle you look at it. I guess I love watercolor because it’s a lot like life,” she explained.
Rose has participated in Art Above Violence as both an artist and survivor. The first year, she created a before-and-after story with special permission from the survivor to portray her in a portrait, capturing her strength and resilience. Last year, Rose anonymously submitted her own story of how she was affected by childhood violence.
“Two artists chose to create such beautiful pieces that were so deeply healing to me that I’m longer afraid of remaining anonymous about it. I was incredibly touched by the privacy, respect and dignity that was provided through Ashley and the other artists, that I can say with confidence, that viewing art inspired by my story was one of the most healing processes I’ve ever been a part of,” she articulated.
This year, Rose has created two watercolors inspired by a survivor story. The piece pictured is packed full of symbols that are meaningful to the survivor — wildflowers that surprise us with their resiliency, new horizons and possibility symbolized by the ocean at sunrise, and a lion symbolizing the power of having a voice.
“We all have in our own image a reflection of the one whose voice rises up in us, defending and protecting with the truth of who we really are: beautiful and strong … You can almost hear this lion roar. That’s the power of having a voice,” Rose said.
Rose encourages the community to attend the exhibit and auction, knowing those who come will walk away feeling uplifted, inspired and empowered.
She explained, “The statistics for those affected by domestic or sexual violence are staggering. There are so many people, even in our own beautiful community, that feel isolated and alone in their pain. My heart breaks for anyone who has a story to go with the statistics. So many carry these stories silently behind closed doors and with deep shame … As a community, I am convinced it’s up to all of us. It starts with caring. Caring for others is just a small thing we can do to be part of the solution to the devastating problem of domestic or sexual violence. So, if you want a delightful evening of yummy appetizers, music, dance and viewing beautiful art that represents amazing stories of strength and resilience, make a difference with your dollars and buy a ticket or, better yet, bid on some art. This, Pagosa, is how you can rise against violence.”
Art Above Violence: Voices Rise will take place on Sept. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased online at: https://artactivismdvproject.weebly.com/.