Art about Safer Brave Space at Going Dutch Festival

Michele Beaulieux stands with her oil pastel triptych, “Jam Series,” at the Side Street Studio Arts Gallery in Elgin, Illinois
Photo by Ivette De Santiago

My triptych, “Jam Series,” looked great at the Going Dutch Festival at Side Street Studio Arts in Elgin, Illinois. It was very well lit and had good company with the other pieces in the visual art exhibition of the festival. “Jam Series” illustrates my article, “Starting By Believing Maria: Responding to Sexual Violence in Safer Brave Contact Improvisation Spaces,” published in Contact Quarterly CI Newsletter. In the article, I recount how a contact improvisation dance jam group gave a serial violator, dubbed “Roland,” chance after chance to reform even as women continued to leave the group after uncomfortable encounters with him. The first oil pastel in the triptych, “Jam with Roland: Just say ‘No,’” depicts a space in which Roland has free rein. The onus is on potential victims to object and say “no.”

Then, in the article, I provide a counterstory. A counterstory is a story with an alternative outcome that represents a moral shift from the dominant story. Counterstories allow us to move beyond being reactive to being proactive. They help us envision the world in which we want to live. I imagine a scenario in which the group believes and supports the first woman to complain. I call her “Maria.” The second drawing in the triptych, titled “Believing Maria,” depicts this tumultuous transition to supporting people who come forward alleging violations.

The final drawing, “Jam with Maria: Listening for ‘Yes,’” imagines a culture of consent in which people listen for “yes.” The group has clear boundaries and has set expectations for participants. Roland is not welcome until he takes responsibility for his transgressions. The group has established “safer brave space.” A safer brave space is a place where we feel safe enough to be brave, where being brave is as safe as possible. I coined the term, safer brave space, when exploring how to create a culture of consent in contact improvisation dance jams, but the concept is relevant for many types of gatherings in which people participate voluntarily and risk vulnerability.

I had a great weekend in Elgin, seeing the amazing historic homes, biking the Fox River trail, consignment store shopping, and visiting with my gracious host and hostess (who makes beautiful purses). I attended thought-provoking workshops and dance performances, had meaningful discussions with other artists, and explored Elgin with friends who came out to see the show. At the festival, I was not the only artist addressing sexual violence. Unfortunately, that topic is relevant for a celebration of the female voice in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. May its relevance diminish going forward …

The show is open Fridays 3-7 pm, Saturdays 12-6 pm, and Sundays 11 am-3 pm through June 25th, 2022 at the Side Street Studio Arts Gallery, 15 Ziegler Court, Elgin, IL 

© 2022 Michele Beaulieux … Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you are free to share and adapt as long as you attribute to Michele Beaulieux, don’t use for commercial purposes, and use this same license. And if you do share, I’d love to know!

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