Today I had the privilege of speaking with Sarah Jane, an artist and educator who engages in a variety of different mediums including sculpture, mosaic, and collaborative projects. Currently she is a staff at the Grunewald Guild, an arts education nonprofit in Leavenworth, WA, but her most recent project is Mere Objects: a participatory art project to honor and empower those who have experienced sexual violence.
To tell you a little bit more about this project, Mere Objects was launched in October 2016. Sarah Jane said, “I felt a calling to create something ‘for survivors’ and knew immediately that I couldn’t draw only from my own experiences in order to create this piece,” so she put a call out on Facebook and began gathering what later became her advisory council of people who experienced sexual violence. Sarah told me a little bit more about the group of 20 people who helped shape the project. “That group weighed in on various ideas and sketches, tweaking some ideas and vetoing others. Until we agreed on the current format of Mere Objects.” Mere Objects now functions with the following format.
Participants anonymously contribute to the project by sending in objects that represent them, their healing process, or aspects of the abuse they experienced. Many include a note discussing the significance of the objects they chose. Objects are small and the project is open to people of all genders who have experienced any form of sexual violence.
Sarah Jane has described the project as a mix of rewarding and difficult. She says, “It has been incredibly rewarding to connect with others who have experienced sexual violence, to share our stories and support one another through the healing process. I continue to be amazed and honored by the trust that participants place in me…That said, I’m finding that it’s pretty uncomfortable to identify publicly as a rape survivor.” She states that she has been met with insensitive or inappropriate questions and has been triggered by other experiences. She says, “I don’t regret it, but there are times when I really need to disconnect and spend time focusing on something else.”
She says for those interested in participating she wanted to emphasize that “it’s always an individual choice, and I recognize it’s not for everyone, so there’s no pressure. There’s also no deadline, and of course you can always participate anonymously. I love all the different ways that participants have found to engage with the project – some have sent items directly related to their assault, while others have chosen items that correspond to the healing process, their faith, or the person they are today.”
If you are interested in learning more about Sarah Jane’s project, additional information can be found at the project’s website, mereobjects.org. If you are interested in mailing in a submission to the project, the address is listed below:
PO Box 6