It Takes a Village

By Antonia Schachter | September 6, 2018

It takes a village to raise a child, is attributed as an African proverb. The message, it takes an entire community of different people interacting with youth in several ways to impact well-being advocates a society that meets all a child’s needs. A socially healthy community of adults is its enduring goal. This quote comes to mind, again and again, as I experience the local organizations that service the Greater Danbury Area.

I have always been happy with my decision to transplant my family from New York to raise my son’s in Danbury, Connecticut. I have enjoyed relationships with many local organizations over the years. When my children were young and in school, I connected with organizations that supported my parenting and my children. I valued the education I got on how our local and state governments function and learned skills to advocate for my children’s education. Now, organizations I have relationships with speak more to wider concerns. And, they are local! That’s the village working.

For purposes of full disclosure, I work part-time for the Danbury-based Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut, but my relationship with it began many years ago. I became involved with the Cultural Alliance through my love of writing. Over the years, the Cultural Alliance continues to evolve and expand its sphere of influence beyond culture and the arts through its innovative partnering with other organizations and businesses, and I love that about the organization.

A current collaboration with the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury on a project called Endworks is an example of just one innovative and far-reaching project. Endworks seeks to promote the Women’s Center’s vision— “to end the violence against women, men and children and to foster equality and empowerment for all” through the arts.

The collaboration of these two community organizations in Endworks demonstrates the courageous and evocative ways we can come together to uplift the lives of others. It is a bold and evolving project— community organizations developing new visions and sharing resources to create an artist-led conversation between those whose lives have been touched by domestic violence and sexual assault, and those who have not.

The Endworks project is in its second year and a new iteration, but the goal remains the same— to engage the arts community and give voice to the vision of the Women’s Center. With Endworks, the village is working.

What is striking to me about this project is the number of community organizations and individuals that it touches. This, in and of itself, is worthy of a visual. A flowchart, if you will, of all the touch-points— the village in action. In lieu of a visual flowchart, let me share the flow and touch-points of this community project and its inherent message of empowerment, here.

This year’s Endworks started with a call for artists and other creatives to propose projects that speak to domestic violence and help move the conversation forward. Two creative participants now form the catalyst for this project with touch-points in several community events, businesses, and countless diverse members of the community that educate, create hope, and engage community in the conversation in unique ways.

Thomas Carruthers, Executive Director of the Connecticut Film Festival, is in the process of calling for film producers in many age categories, including student’s from the region’s public and private schools, colleges, and universities to participate in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) competition that focuses on sexual assault and domestic violence in 30 – 60 second PSAs. The winners will show their work at a public screening at a Premiere party and awards presentation at the Bethel Cinema produced by FilmFest52 & The Connecticut Film Festival. The Women’s Center and the Cultural Alliance will both be in attendance.

Consequently, this program touches youngsters, college-age students participating in the competition, and members of the community who attend the screening, many of whom will be introduced to both organizations for the first time. The PSAs will also be incorporated into the Women’s Center events for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to be announced soon. A sample of what’s to come will be screened during the Cultural Alliance’s annual Business Supports the Arts Awards Breakfast, bringing awareness to small businesses, community organizations, artists, and networkers. Need I say it? Yes, the village in action, again.

Toni Miraldi, artist and owner of Mural Envy, is designing and painting a large, publicly visible wall mural on panels that illustrate and draw attention to domestic violence and sexual assault. Toni talked with volunteers and staff at the Women’s Center for inspiration in creating the design, “to learn about their passions and motivations, and to hear their stories of serving the Greater Danbury community. From these conversations came a clear message of hope, empathy, advocacy and diversity.” The mural’s imagery translates these conversations into a visual message that communicates the Center’s mission in a unique, engaging way.

Additionally, Toni will be painting the murals in donated space on Main Street in downtown Danbury. During her work hours, the space will be open to the public and pedestrians on Main Street to walk in and observe her process. An amazing opportunity to touch many downtown community members and introduce them to both organizations right on their doorstep.

Once complete, the panels will be unveiled at the Cultural Alliance’s Business Supports the Arts Awards Breakfast. Then, it will be installed in Danbury Hospital, a community partner and supporter of The Women’s Center, in a high-traffic location. On a daily basis, staff, doctors, nurses, patients and family of the Danbury Hospital community will see the mural panels. This is a major accomplishment of community organizations coming together to serve our community.

The Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut is uniquely positioned to bridge together the creative community and other stakeholders, to build awareness on important issues we all care about. Through the power of the arts, both projects use visual art to convey the mission of the Women’s Center. Both the mural and the PSAs will engage people who have not connected with the center through usual channels. The sheer number and diversity of touch-points of this project is staggering and beautiful. It takes a village.