Ontario communities recognize sexual trauma through public art making

Residents of North Bay, Carleton Place, Brantford, and Peterborough will create 4 monuments to honour survivors of sexual violence

Three hands touch a small pebble mosaic monument


TORONTO: What began as a request by one sexual assault centre in rural Ontario has evolved into a quest to dignify the experiences and visibility of survivors across the province. From February 28 to March 30, 2019, Toronto’s community arts non-profit Red Dress Productions will lead the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project — a series of pebble mosaic workshops to create monuments that honour survivors of sexual violence.

In collaboration with Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing, Lanark County Interval House, the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, and Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, the public works will be developed and built with the participation of several hundred residents in North Bay, Carleton Place, Brantford, and Peterborough, Ontario.

Initiated by the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County (WSAC) in 2014, and led by Red Dress Productions in 2016, the initial impetus was to create a work to mark the centre’s 25th anniversary. Along with the support of Ottawa Valley Creative Arts Open Studio (OVCAOS) — and created in collaboration with 400 residents — four mosaics were realized in Eganville, Killaloe, Pembroke, and Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, Ontario.

Three years later, in 2019, there is much anticipation for the four new works, as collaborating centres recognize the project’s deep significance.

“Having a monument for learning about and giving respect to survivors of sexual violence is extremely important to our community because it helps us to inspire empathy and build resilience. This monument will give us a place to mourn, to celebrate, to reflect, and to take action,” explains Lisa Clarke, interim executive director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in Peterborough.

“I hope that through this monument, we will build community understanding of the issues facing survivors of sexual violence, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, as well as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, and intimate partner violence.

“This monument might be a place where survivors name their abuse and reach out for help. This monument might be a place where survivors lay their abuse to rest,” Clarke affirms. “What I know for sure is that this monument will be a place where we can gather in solidarity, and that connectedness builds our strength.”

Today, the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project flourishes, with continued partnerships with WSAC and OVCAOS, and increasing interest from front-line workers in support centres throughout the province. Red Dress Productions hopes to extend the project over the next three years.

The Countdown Public Art Legacy Project’s pebble mosaic workshops are free, open to all, and are wheelchair accessible.

Additional accommodation requests can be made by contacting Andy Trull at arts@ov-caos.org.

The four mosaics will be permanently installed and unveiled throughout the spring and summer months this year.

Workshop dates and locations

Pebble Mosaic Workshop

February 28 – March 2, 2019

Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing

Thurs Feb 28, 4–8 p.m.
Fri Mar 1, 12–4 p.m.
Sat Mar 2, 1–5 p.m.

101 Worthington Street East, Unit #11 (lower level)
North Bay, Ontario
(705) 840-2403, info@ameliarising.ca

March 6 – 8, 2019

Lanark County Interval House

Wed Mar 6, 12–4 p.m.
Thurs Mar 7, 4–8 p.m.
Fri Mar 8, 1–5 p.m.

All Nations Church
39 Bridge Street
Carleton Place, Ontario
(613) 257-3469, info@lcih.com           

March 21 – 23, 2019

Sexual Assault Centre of Brant

Thurs Mar 21, 4–8 p.m.
Fri Mar 22, 12–4 p.m.
Sat Mar 23, 1–5 p.m.

Branford & District Labour Centre
1100 Clarence Street South
Brantford, Ontario
(519) 751-1164, sexualassaultcentre@sacbrant.ca

March 28 – 30, 2019

Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre

Thurs Mar 28, 4–8 p.m.
Fri Mar 29, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

150 King Street, 3rd Floor

Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre

Sat Mar 30, 2:30–6:30 p.m.

580 Cameron Street
Peterborough, Ontario
(705) 748-5901

View project photos on Flickr and video clips on Vimeo.

Funders and supporters

The Countdown Public Art Legacy Project is funded by It’s Never Okay: Ontario’s Gender-based Violence Strategy (Ontario Arts Council), the Toronto Arts Council, and is generously supported by MorenaMedia, Ottawa Valley Creative Arts Open Studio, and the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County.

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