Art event, Fort Smith artist, help raise money and awareness for the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,022 views 

Local artists and artisans offered original pieces of art for sale during the silent auction portion of the NWAWS fundraiser, Fresh StART, on Saturday (Oct. 14).

In an effort to raise support for domestic violence victims, more than 200 people came together at the Record in Bentonville on Saturday (Oct. 14) for Fresh StART, the signature fundraising event for the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter (NWAWS).

“Expressing the art of happiness and healing” was the tagline for the evening. The event showcased the work of local artist, Stacy Bates, an art teacher and illustrator from Fort Smith, whose work features black-and-white pen and ink illustrations.

Guests could purchase Bates’ work, and also bid on pieces of art from other local artists throughout the evening during a silent auction. Paintings by men, women and children clients at the women’s shelter were also included in the silent auction. Each work of art told the person’s story, the meaning behind their painting and how their art was tied to their journey of healing.

“Art is a therapeutic tool for both adults and children to process these things. So this is pretty cool to be able to use art and highlight that,” said helli Cathcart, executive director of the NWAWS.

According to their website, the NWAWS uses art to help adults and children “connect with the emotions they have suppressed as a result of abuse they have suffered. Art is a channel for self-identification and for developing self-awareness and a voice.”

Corina was one of the NWAWS clients who had her work on display and for sale during the silent auction portion of the evening.

The NWAWS provides free emergency shelter, food and clothing to victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault; as well as a free 24-hour crisis phone line and services to clients. In addition, the organization offers court advocacy, Spanish bilingual services, children’s advocacy and programming, community education, support groups, counseling and a volunteer program.

“It really is about providing safe nights for shelter,” Cathcart said. “So (the NWAWS) is really about creating that space for individuals to take a moment to pause and really begin to move toward hope and healing today. And, then as that family is healing, it really is about breaking that cycle of violence for tomorrow.”

Cathcart said she has learned from clients that the shelter provides a place for people to begin to heal, but they are the ones who must go through that process.

“What I’m learning from Wendy and so many others is that we’re not doing the work. They’re doing the courageous work of transforming their lives. We’re creating the space that they’re able to begin to take those steps,” Cathcart said.

(from left to right) Megan Crozier, SVP-GMM, packaged goods, Wal-Mart; Deanah Baker, SVP-GMM, apparel division, Wal-Mart; Stacy Bates, featured artist; Shelli Cathcart, executive director for NWAWS; and Angelique O’Bryan, NWAWS board president. Crozier and Baker were honorary co-chairs of the event.

Over the past year, about 500 women, men and children have come through the NWAWS, with half of those being children with an average age of six, Cathcart said. And, she said, another 200 people have used their outreach services, which consist of advocacy, support groups, counseling, and help with basic necessities.

The cost for a family, consisting of one adult and two children, to stay at the shelter for a month is $10,000, Cathcart said. Cathcart said organizers hoped to raise $70,000, which will go toward providing shelter and outreach services for their clients.

Megan Crozier, senior vice president, GMM packaged goods for Wal-Mart U.S. Stores, and Deanah Baker, senior vice president, GMM ladies apparel, intimates, jewelry and accessories for Wal-Mart Stores, served as honorary chairs for the event. Baker is also a NWAWS board member.

The presenting sponsor for the event was Mars, Inc. Other sponsors included J.B. Hunt, The Clorox Company, Heineken, Post Consumer Brands and Advantage Solutions.