When I met Jean six years ago, her passion, ambition, and sense of humor made quite an impression (so did her fiery red hair!). Awakenings is nearly ten years old, but Jean had been fighting to get the world to pay attention to survivors and their art long before she opened our gallery doors. Her fierce dedication to this cause remains unparalleled, and I’ve never met anyone so willing to roll up her sleeves and create change. The amount of time, energy, and love she’s given Awakenings will never be surmounted, and for that we are eternally grateful.
Q: Can you describe your healing journey through art?
A: It’s been a long one. I suppose it began when I starting studying music at age 5, but my relationship with music is a long and troubled one so maybe I’ll just start with writing. I began writing stories at about the same age. Growing up I always kept diaries and wrote to imaginary friends. I suppose I was filling the loneliness. I was an only child, and my father and brother died when I was four.
I always rejected the notion that I would write a book “some day.” I made my living as a corporate scriptwriter for over 25 years. When the working day was over the last thing I wanted to do was write.
Writing changed for me when I met my cousin Judith. As we poured our hearts and souls into our correspondence for almost twenty years I began rediscovering the power of getting it all out “onto the paper.”
After Judith died in 1998, I continued to write to her for the next fifteen years. I wrote a book about her which was published in 2007. It went a long way toward easing my grief over losing her. Another book, “Heavy Metal,” published in 2017, came out of the pain and anger I felt during the three years I spent in the role of caretaker to a toxic mother.
It’s hard to separate the “writing to heal” from the “writing because that’s what I do.” I am a professional writer and putting words on paper is like breathing for me. I guess the only difference between the two is that one comes from the head and one comes from the heart. I’ve learned to listen to both.
Q: What impact does the Gallery of survivor art have?
A: My wish and hope is that people leave the Gallery as different people. Apparently it’s not enough to hear and read the statistics about sexual violence. Seeing the art on the walls and reading the statements lets people experience the survivors’ stories as participants, not just viewers. It gives them the opportunity to see how sexual trauma poisons every aspect of a survivor’s life.
The most unique thing about Awakenings is the dual mission. Support the artists, showcase their stories. Promote individual healing, and educate our society. It’s not just survivors who need to heal. Until we as a culture are willing to expose the myths, break the silence, and hear and believe the truth about the epic level of sexual violence in our culture we are all damaged.
Q: What motivated you to open a space like Awakenings?
A: I created Awakenings out of the need I saw to create a home for the artistic expression of survivors. Working on my own to create art exhibits, attempting to find venues and partners, became too frustrating. Through the Judith Dawn Memorial Fund for the Arts I saw for ten years how survivors needed more than just funding to heal themselves. They need a home, a safe place, a stage and a platform. I created Awakenings in an attempt to give them that. Most agencies working with survivors could barely manage to raise enough funds for services. Program ideas for artistic expression went nowhere. Awakenings was my attempt to change that.
So I sing for the Dragon
But the songs are for me.
And finally, free.
– HEAVY METAL: A SONG OF HEALING
BY JEAN COZIER
To read more about Jean and her incredible work here at Awakenings, please visit our Founder Page.