A Space for All Voices: An Exhibition by the Gardiner Expressive Arts Group


The Barbra Schlifer Clinic is a daring centre providing access to justice and support for women who have experienced violence. The agency proudly carry on the tradition of social justice work inspired by their namesake, Barbra Teena Schlifer, a promising young lawyer whose life was cut short by violence in 1980.

The Barbra Schlifer Clinic and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art have partnered to raise awareness about violence against women and girls through an exhibition of clay works.  Through Barbra Schlifer Clinic's Gardiner Expressive Arts Group program, ten women created clay works over a period of 12-weeks within a healing expressive arts setting.   The program runs each year from September to December, and is facilitated by art therapist Suzanne Thomson and artist Susan Low-Beer. 

In 2013, group participants were asked to reflect on the following lines from a poem by Adrienne Rich, “Spirit like water moulded by unseen stone.” The intent was for each of the women to respond to Rich's words by sculpting in clay their unique experiences of trauma. The result of their explorations  culminated in an exhibition at the Museum entitled A Space for all Voices. The exhibition ran at the Gardiner Museum from December 12 to December 19, 2013. 

The previous year (2012), under the same program, the Schlifer Clinic launched Transformation by Fire, a landmark exhibition of the 10-year art therapy partnership with the Gardiner Museum's clay studios. Schlifer Clinic participants sculpt their trauma narratives in clay, transforming their pain and reconnecting with their resilience and strength. Designed to raise public awareness about violence against women in a sensitive, informed and compelling way, and to provide accessible and inspiring real life role models of transformation, the program is the first of its kind in a major museum in Canada.

The riveting and inspiring clay works can be viewed on the exhibit's Facebook page.