How do you get two men to talk about family violence?

Written by LIFT Alliance

Ask them to make flowers.

Barri Rosenbluth, the director of SafePlace’s Expect Respect program, was a little surprised when the City of Austin approached her about participating in a litter prevention program. But she knew that the themes of respect – for people as well as for the environment – were universal.

And so this spring, Expect Respect launched a large-scale free community art project that links messages about positive relationships with ideas about litter prevention and respect for the world around us.

At workshops and farmers markets across Austin, people are invited to make a flower from recycled plastic bottles.  As they make their flowers, they’re asked to tell others about a positive relationship in their lives. “It gets people thinking about how they define what that means,” explains Barri. “The simple idea is to talk to people about these issues, while also making art.”

The project was planned in collaboration with local artist Susan Slomowitz, and the flowers will ultimately be used to decorate a bridge at 10th and Red River over Waller Creek. The project is part of the Waller Creek Watershed Protection Plan.

Beautifying Austin and spreading a message about litter prevention is great. But what really matters to Barri is the opportunity to make a connection with people about issues that don’t ordinarily get discussed. “What’s amazing is that people are disclosing some very deep secrets and truths, as they cut and paint their flowers,” she said. “I was with two men, who were complete strangers to each other, talking about how violence had shaped and affected their lives. One man had been abused as a child. Another had grown up witnessing the abuse of his mother – and he reported that he then went on to abuse women himself. Their presence there, and their willingness to talk about these issues with each other, is exactly the kind of change we want to make.”

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