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Art offers hope, healing

Left to right, Jill Hinners, volunteer coordinator for the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA) and Katie Hill, an intern and human services student with the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, unveil a mixed-media painting created by survivors of violence. About a dozen shelter residents of all ages worked together with Hill and art therapist Ineke Grounds to make the piece. (Maria Lockwood)

Art is more than something you view — it is a process you go through.

Katie Hill and her co-facilitator Ineke Grounds spent more than a month leading survivors of violence as they expressed themselves through paint and canvas.

“It touches folks more than we even know,” said Hill, a student in the human services program at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. The work, now hanging in the lobby of the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, was created by a dozen shelter residents from all walks of life — a family, a 6-year-old boy, a Native American elder.

“It’s just so thrilling to know you can start one thing with just an idea, because that’s how this started,” Hill said. “It was just a small idea in my mind and it just grew into something that I never could have imagined … just the most beautiful thing.”

One survivor contributed three separate parts of the collage. The woman spent a lot of time tearing, ripping and creating them. One represents the dreams shattered by violence, one the reality she finds herself in now. The third held the word “Hope.”

“Hope sets in eventually,” Hill said. “It was just beautiful, so powerful. To be part of that experience with her was so amazing.”

The work is the first to paint the halls of CASDA’s new shelter with color.

“When we moved into this building at one of our staff meetings we were talking about the empty walls and how we wanted to be real deliberate before hanging any art on the walls,” said volunteer coordinator Jill Hinners. They wanted to make sure any art reflected the center’s mission, and what its clients were going through while offering hope. Hill’s project fit the criteria as well as the front lobby wall.

“It’s like the space was waiting for it,” Hinners said.

The project wove together many partners, including the technical and the North Central Windows Program.

As part of her field experience with the technical college’s human services program, Hill chose to focus on CASDA. She attended their Speak Out Superior event last year and bumped into Susan Meyers with North Central Windows Program. The program, which began in 2012, facilitates art as a healing process for survivors of violence through weekly sessions and outreach work. Meyers had been contemplating starting an art group at CASDA.

“I thought, ‘what a good fit, doing art with others,’” said Hill, an artist herself. With supplies from the windows program and the OK from CASDA, the project was born. Bringing it into the shelter broke down the barriers and made it easier for residents to attend, Hill said. It also opened her eyes.

At first she was nervous, unsure how to act with the shelter residents. Meeting and getting to know them changed that.

“I realize that these are people just like you and me,” Hill said. “It was just like meeting people at an individual, where you’re at level, and let’s work together and create some art together.”

The resulting picture represents success, Hinners said — a successful internship, successful partnerships and successful art enrichment activity for clients that will inspire others as long as it hangs at the center.

“This idea is like hope. It can help us grow and achieve our dreams if we work together,” said Hill. “May we find hope and may we dream.” The image is dedicated to everyone affected by violence. Hill said she hopes it will inspire viewers to end the violence in their lives.

 “It will also bring art to our walls, something we were sadly in need of, and gives us ideas for other spaces that may need some art,” Hinners said.

She may soon have that art. Hill and her co-facilitator, art therapist Ineke Grounds, plan to restart the CASDA art group in the fall.

The center’s new, 10-bedroom facility in Superior’s East End neighborhood opened last spring.

“Every bed has been full the majority of the time,” Hinners said, counting on one hand the number of times over the past year when there has been an open bed or two. The space has been needed and utilized, she said. “We’ve really been able to say ‘Yes’ more often when people have contacted us for shelter,” Hinners said.

For information on CASDA, call 715-392-3136 or visit For information on the North Central Windows Program, go to or email