This summer Domestic Abuse Intervention Services will open a new shelter on Fordem Avenue. A safe haven for domestic violence survivors from Dane County, the facility should be fully operational by Aug. 1, says development director Jamie Quam.
Gathering visual art is an important part of making the building ready for its residents. A project called I Will Create for DAIS is asking Wisconsin artists to donate paintings, photographs and more through April 15. After that, a jury will choose which pieces to feature in the shelter.
"The vision is to create a place that's healing and empowering," says DAIS executive director Shannon Barry. "So often victims of domestic violence have heard from their batterers that they aren't worthy of love or care. So to have a community of artists say to them we believe you're worthy of beauty in your life is an incredible thing."
DAIS volunteer John Urban suggested the call for art.
"I was following the progress of the new building, and I just pictured blank walls," he says.
A professional photographer and filmmaker, Urban planned to donate some of his own work to DAIS. He soon realized others might also be moved to provide art.
Barry says the current DAIS facility was purchased in 1983 as a "10-year solution." With only one emergency bed per 19,000 Dane County residents, it is one of the smallest domestic violence shelters in Wisconsin. The nightly waiting list, which serves people in potentially lethal situations, can easily grow to 80 people.
The new, 35,000-square-foot space will have 56 beds instead of 25, Barry says, and it's large enough for DAIS to expand its other services, including legal support and a 24-hour help line.
So far, DAIS has received many types of art donations, including sculpture, paintings and a stained-glass window. Madison Children's Museum has offered to make a piece as well. Still, the organization has a long way to go to create the kind of message it wants to share with local survivors.
In addition to being beautiful, this message should be "nurturing" and "incredibly powerful," Barry says.
The facility will say 'you're worthy of beauty in your life.'