When John Wolford’s cousin was murdered by her boyfriend, he wrote a song about it.
Now, Wolford’s song, along with the artwork and poetry of dozens of others whose lives have been touched by domestic violence, is on display for all to see at Great Northern Mall. It’s part of the Survivors’ Art and Poetry exhibit from Vera House’s Art of Caring, a program that allows survivors and their supporters to express their emotions through art.
Wolford wrote the song, called “Enough Already,” in 2005 after his cousin, Lori Ann Leonard, a 33-year-old mother of two, was murdered by her boyfriend. Shawn Doyle suffocated Leonard after she tried to break off their relationship. Her body was found two and a half months later in the Champlain Canal. Wolford said he has been involved with Vera House ever since.
“Her brother had written a song and he asked me to write one,” Wolford said. “I just talked about how it has to stop.”
Wolford’s words join numerous paintings, drawings and more on the wall opposite the post office near Old Navy at Great Northern Mall. The artwork in the permanent display is available for sale; proceeds benefit Vera House, which runs domestic and sexual violence shelters, anger management and counseling programs.
“We’re really excited to see this here,” said Randi Bregman, executive director of Vera House. “We were thrilled when the mall approached us with the idea.”
The idea came from Sandy Graham, marketing manager for the mall. Graham said Macerich, the company that owns the mall, has been trying to find something to do with that space for a while.
“We wanted to use this space for something community-focused,” Graham said. “And we were focusing on women’s organizations, because, really, women are our core customers.”
Graham said she did an internet search of women’s organizations in the area and discovered the Art of Caring program, which is run by Crystal LaPoint. Graham called LaPoint about doing something at the mall and the exhibit was born.
“Hopefully this will be replicated in malls across the community,” LaPoint said. “Art touches people’s hearts and opens their minds, and it allows these women to express their creativity. It would be great if we could make more people aware of that.”
The Art of Caring program provides therapy to survivors of domestic and sexual violence through the catharsis of art.
“Art is a proven therapeutic tool,” Bregman said. “There has been so much research showing its use in the healing process.
The purpose of having the display at the mall, Bregman said, is to share the experiences of those women with the public while maintaining the artists’ anonymity. The act of sharing their stories is also an integral part of the healing process.
“This sends a powerful message,” Bregman said of the exhibit. “Art touches people in a way that talking about things doesn’t. Hopefully people will see this exhibit, and they’ll take away the pain and suffering of those who were abused, but they’ll also see the hope and the healing, the possibility of moving beyond it.”
“I hope people who see the exhibit will understand that domestic and sexual violence happens to real people — someone’s sister, daughter, best friend,” LaPoint said. “You see the whole range of emotions here — the anger, the hurt, the celebration, the hope. There is hope here. There are lessons to be learned.”
Wolford said the main lesson is that violence has no place in a relationship.
“Violence doesn’t solve your problems,” he said. “I realize there’s two sides to every story, but there’s no reason to resort to violence. If the situation is so bad that it comes to that, the guy needs to get out. You need to start living your life the way you should be.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.