Storytelling and sharing are first steps to healing trauma and building community. This is the philosophy behind Owning Your Own Voice, a community-based storytelling program from Camp Washington’s Wave Pool.
Now in its second year, Owning Your Own Voice is expanding from oral, visual, and written storytelling into a new hands-on program that trains women in woodworking. The participating women are producing “transformative healing benches” that will be placed throughout the city after being featured, first, in a gallery show at Wave Pool.
Local artist Lacey Haslam was recruited as the resident woodworker for Owning Your Own Voice. She is a Camp Washington resident with a background in carpentry and sculpture. She has worked with Wave Pool in various capacities over the past five years and runs the Archive of Creative Culture, which was introduced by Wave Pool in 2016.
Haslam oversees the creation of the benches and she says the experience has been “incredible.”
“[The participants] are all so eager to learn and are not only gaining skills but confidence while encouraging each other along the way. The energy in the wood shop is nothing short of inspirational.”
“Working with wood offers the opportunity to learn about this material but also about ones abilities to solve challenging questions,” she explains.
“If you come into the wood shop upset, it will show in the work. Woodworking requires you to slow down, take time and care, which ultimately breaks us out of the everyday hustle and noise.”
Since Spring of 2020, participants in Owning Your Own Voice have worked with local minister Rev. Dr. Aaron Maurice Saari to write their Spiritual Autobiography. Sharing these personal stories of stigma and trauma, they hope, will create a community that supports resiliency and healing. In addition to the new woodworking project, participants will also be producing a community mural with local artist Dai Williams.
Owning Your Own Voice is just one of many innovative programs from Wave Pool, a self-described “socially-engaged art center that acts as a conduit for community change.” Located in an old fire house in Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood, Wave Pool is an art gallery, studios, artist residency program, wood shop, ceramics studio, community gathering space, and more.
The organization has been a driving force in community-building initiatives in Camp Washington since its inception about seven years ago. Owning Your Own Voice is a collaboration between Wave Pool, the Washington United Church of Christ, and Broken into Beautiful, a women’s empowerment initiative that meets twice a month at Wave Pool’s gallery.
Co-founder and Executive Director Cal Cullen says this new initiative, like most Wave Pool programs, brings together multiple community partners and artists to create “an asset-based approach” to assisting the community.
She explains, “The program has evolved over the past two years as the women involved have stepped into leadership roles and asked for a more hands-on approach to recovery, mentorship, and giving back to their communities as a result.”