Ithaca, New York – The Tompkins County Historic Center and the Tompkins County Advocacy Center have teamed up to present “Deployment: A Chronology of Sexual Assault in Tompkins County.” The exhibit displays T-shirts, brochures, posters, buttons and other artifacts documenting decades of Tompkins County survivors.
“Deployment” is on display until June 25 at the Artspace / Gallery of the Community Arts Partnership at the Tompkins Center for History and Culture and includes works of art by Clothesline project, with pieces made by local survivors of sexual, domestic and relationship violence. The parts provided by the archives of the Advocacy Center are T-shirts that show drawings, paintings and messages from survivors of violence. The shirts are hung on a clothesline around the art space, and the title of the project refers to the phrase “airing dirty laundry” to show the voices of survivors anonymously.
The exhibition will close with an event called “Feeling the Survival and Sustainability of Queer through Art”, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 25 at CAP ArtSpace / Gallery.
Zoe Van Nostrand, Marketing and Visitor Experience Coordinator at the Historic Center, assisted in curating the exhibition with Lynn Staak, Youth Community Education Coordinator at the Advocacy Center. Nostrand said the messages and artwork on the T-shirts were an act of reclamation for the survivors. She said she wanted to show them to inform people on a more personal level about what a survivor’s experience is.
“It’s really important to remember that all of these messages are the messages that survivors want people to know about their experience, their healing, and the ways they have chosen to regain what it means to them,” Nostrand said. “The T-shirts themselves are surviving voices. […] These are people who are regaining power and regaining the space they occupy. “
In addition to the Clothesline project, the exhibition includes artifacts from Tompkins County from the 1970s that document the history of victim and survivor support and prevention efforts in the area. What is now known as the Advocacy Center began as a working group on beaten women in 1977 to support survivors of domestic violence. As it expanded its services over the years to accommodate more survivors, its name was changed in 2003 to The Advocacy Center to better represent the wide range of services it offers. The exhibition shows everything from brochures to posters to buttons created by various activist organizations over the decades.
Advocacy Center Education Director Christy Taylor said the artifacts are particularly impactful because they show how much difference individuals and actions can make when they are stubborn.
“The world is a really huge place right now, and I think we can all feel really lost,” Taylor said. Like, “Can I be my small group or can I even make a difference?” And the exhibition shows how much difference these small groups of people can really make. […] Do not give up, it takes time, there is a long game. Our small actions combined can really make a huge difference. “
Nostrand said he hoped the story would encourage and support younger generations to strive for social justice and activism.
“The younger generations tend to think they are the first in the battle and that there is no knowledge to draw from,” Nostrand said. “And looking at this here, if I think about 1979, it’s 50 years of knowledge in the community about how to successfully get what you’re fighting for. […] There is a tremendous amount of effort, knowledge and experience to draw from our own community. “