The Potter Library unveiled a month-long art exhibit, “Baring our Soles,” of more than 10 pairs of shoes crafted by Shelter our Sisters’ victims of domestic violence on Oct. 8. The shoes, made by women and children, exemplified the creativity as well as the struggle the artists have endured in their lives.
The display case holds pairs of shoes that are filled with various colors, buttons, ribbons and paint, all crafted within the course of three months. Shelter our Sisters, a North Jersey nonprofit dedicated to assisting domestic violence abuse victims, receives all types of donated shoes for its art project, including heels, flats, sneakers and crocs.
The “Baring our Soles” project includes 10 participants that expressed their emotions through creative narratives.
“My future is bright and shiny like my shoe,” read one exposition from a victim’s shoe.
The exhibit encourages the Ramapo community to become more involved with volunteer opportunities and help others through times of struggle. It also informs students on issues happening within Bergen County and across the world.
“These displays pave the way to women empowerment and can give a lot of girls positive reinforcement,” said junior Lauren Yudman. “By making these shoes, it allows the girls to almost relive the trauma and become stronger. This project is definitely a great therapeutic gateway for anyone who is going through something.”
Shelter our Sisters creative arts therapist Marta Levy unveiled the exhibit on Monday.
“These women have a large amount of sad emotions that are hard to express in words but they find it easier to process and externalize these feeling through art forms such as shoes,” Levy said. “This became a project that helped women show really tough feelings and the trauma they have endured. Women identify and have relationships with shoes.”
Ramapo librarian Lili Pasaporte did not attend the unveiling, but said she thought the display was beautiful the first day she saw it.
“To me, these shoes don’t look sad, they look happy,” Pasaporte said. “Overall, this exhibit is very touching and a great outlet for women to feel important.”
During the process of decorating the shoes, the women sit in a group and interact with one another, telling the stories of their journeys to create a healing process. While the women have the choice as to whether or not they would like to share a narrative, their shoes help them become less isolated, causing gradual decrease in victimization. The shoes are stored throughout the year and brought out every October.
“I do often bring my work home with me because I want to help everyone but that is obviously impossible, but I do what I can to make these women become the brighter and happier person they were before the abuse,” Levy said.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and females who are 20-24 years old are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
To contact Shelter our Sisters, call the hotline at (201) 944-9600 or visit shelteroursisters.org.