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How Working in the Child Welfare System Inspired Me to Create

I studied fine art at Western Carolina University in the mountains of North Carolina with an emphasis on sculpture and painting. After college, I worked for an artists residency program in New York City and Maine and began writing grants which led to a decade+ long career in nonprofit fundraising. My missions always focused on arts or children or both.

My latest position in the child welfare system taught me more about community and social justice than I was ready to learn. Two years ago, I started painting figures based on the children we served. They were faceless, armless, legless figures because I felt the children I served were invisible to the general public with limited voice and ability to create real change for themselves. There is little awareness about children impacted by the child welfare system and their trajectories generationally. I was also becoming a mother of two young children during this time and the experience of motherhood magnified my desire to give vulnerable children in my community representation.

Over time, the focus of my people paintings shifted and will continue to shift. Through serving children and families, I became empathetic to mothers and women who were victims of violence. Many children we served were in the child welfare system because of domestic violence and a woman’s inability to escape. I began supporting organizations focused on domestic violence and learning more about the prevalence of violence against women in American communities. The numbers astounded me so much so that I was curious what they would look like on canvas. That is when I began tracking data and counting the figures in my paintings.

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