News Release:

Expressive Arts Therapy Group launches #WeBelieveSurvivors, a Ceramic Art Exhibit by women survivors of violence

Listen to women speak about violence through ceramic art 

TORONTO, November 22, 2016 —The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the Gardiner Museum have partnered for more than a decade to offer women who have survived all forms of violence with an Expressive Arts Therapy Group. Led by art therapist Suzanne Thomson and ceramic artist Jess Riva Cooper, the Group’s participants will share their work and raise public awareness about violence against women in a sensitive, informed and compelling art exhibit that will open on December 6, 2016, at the Gardiner Museum.

The partnership between the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the Gardiner Museum is supported in part by Janis Rotman, who is the Program Sponsor for art therapeutic partnerships at the Gardiner.  For the Gardiner Expressive Arts Group, this contribution specifically supports the Gardiner technician, studio space, and exhibition.

The opening of the event is made further significant by the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada. Established by the Parliament of Canada in 1991, the day marks the anniversary of the 1989 murders of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal 1989, who were targeted for the sole reason that they were women.

This year’s theme, #WeBelieveSurvivors, emerged through the ongoing conversation raised by women who have survived sexual assault, highlighting the fragility of traumatic memory, and the expectation of those to recall with irrefutable precision, the specific details of their assault. Lead by feminists, advocacy groups, and women across the country, the hashtag continues to harness attention around victim shaming and women reporting sexual assault allegations to police.

The exhibit’s theme aligns with a growing movement that holds up for critical examination, systems that deny, minimize, belittle, and even threaten and intimidate women who speak out about sexual violence. What better way to listen to women than through seeing their thoughtful and expressive creations?

About the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a specialized clinic for women experiencing violence, established in the memory of Barbra Schlifer – an idealistic young lawyer whose life was cut short by violence on the night of her call to the bar of Ontario on April 11, 1980.  In her memory, the Clinic is a multi-disciplinary, front-line service provider that assists nearly 4,000 women a year to build lives free from violence through counselling, legal representation, and language interpretation. Since it was founded in 1985, the Clinic has assisted more than 60,000 women. 

About the Gardiner Museum

The Gardiner Museum celebrates the art of ceramics and engages local and international audiences by promoting understanding of the long history of people crafting in clay. The Museum stewards a highly important collection, connecting visitors to the fundamental role of ceramics in many cultures throughout history, and offers special temporary displays, many highlighting the relevancy of ceramics to contemporary life. The permanent collection comprises approximately 4,000 objects and focuses on specific areas which have been collected in depth. These include the most important collection of European porcelain in Canada, with particular strengths in Meissen, Vienna, and Hausmaler decorated porcelain, as well as a comprehensive collection of figures inspired by the commedia dell’arte. The Gardiner holds the best collection of Italian Renaissance maiolica in Canada and a superb collection of English tin-glazed pottery. It preserves highly significant collections of ceramics from the Ancient Americas, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese porcelain, and contemporary Canadian ceramics. The Gardiner is among the few museums in the world focused on ceramics and is one of the most important specialty museums internationally. For more information, please visit

About Expressive Art Therapy

Expressive art and art therapy, by virtue of its creative potential, has the capacity to transform personal experiences of painful events, difficult or troubling thoughts, or unpleasant bodily sensations into compelling works of poignant art. At the same time, it has the potential to capture and share the complex experiences and perspectives on violence against women. Through the Gardiner Museum Expressive Arts Group, participants are invited to shape and give voice to their experiences in the clay. Colour, symbolism, shape, space and texture enable group participants to illustrate in 3-dimension their experiences. By doing so, the stage is set for a new meaning to emerge. The pieces show the importance of sharing and telling the women’s stories, honouring their resilience and strengths.

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For more information, please contact:

Rachel Weiner, Gardiner Museum
Communications Coordinator
[email protected]


Pamela Rice, Communications Manager, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
[email protected] ,
416-323-9149 ext. 228