Domestic Abuse Survivors Help Kids Explore Through Art


MAY 9, 2023

BAR HARBOR—What does love look like?

Is it a puppy wagging her tail?

Is it a walk on a moonlit beach?

Is it a twin soul who also likes hot sauce?

And what doesn’t love look like?

Is it a growl?

A raised fist?

A derogatory name?

via Liz Cutler A moment at the Y

An event is happening this weekend because of artist Liz Cutler, Maegan Graslie (painter and art therapist), Patrisha McLean (accomplished photographer and former wife of singer-songwriter Don McLean), and others who are hoping to help local kids explore what love is. And what it isn’t. The event is a collaboration between ArtWaves and Finding Our Voices and the receptions will be Saturday, May 13 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and May 14, noon to 4 p.m. at ArtWaves in Town Hill.

Cutler, the founder of ArtWaves, said, “I was immediately attracted to the simplicity of conveying such a complex topic and that it can be expressed visually. It’s exciting to have a variety of media to share.”

This Finding Our Voices and ArtWaves project is meant to empower Maine’s young people to find their voices and get the conversation going about what is love and what is not love.  Finding Our Voices is a “grassroots, survivor-powered nonprofit boldly and creatively breaking the silence of domestic abuse across Maine.” Some of that support is financial to survivors.

Maine Governor Janet T. Mills said, “Domestic violence affects everyone. Years ago, a man I loved threatened by life. Escape from violence is possible.”

Love is not violence.

Love is not abuse.

via Liz Cutler

An unattributed article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot writes,

“‘I remember being 17 and not knowing what [domestic abuse] was,’ is the testimonial on one of the posters. The 20-year-old relates how she failed a class due to the distress and chaos of her boyfriend threatening to kill himself if she left him, not letting her talk to boys her age, and looking at every conversation she had on social media. ‘I never knew abuse could be verbal and emotional. I hope this information helps young girls in these situations know they are worthy, and enough.’
“On another poster, a young woman shares ‘No one knew’ about the five-years-older neighbor who for six years starting when she was 13 forced her to have painful sex, constantly called her crazy, tracked her every move and threatened to kill himself if she ‘broke off’ with him.”

The ArtWaves reception comes after Cutler gathered with participants to create art that represented to them what love looked like, what it didn’t look like and “what happens when you hold the two of them together?”

At the events there will also be a table to create and explore the questions. It is free. All are welcome.

COA students creating. Via Liz Cutler

“I feel honored to be part of the process; the development of how we present it and the creative process itself. Maegan Graslie is doing an internship with Patrisha McLean developing a curriculum and bringing it to more groups of kids in Hancock County and beyond,” Cutler said. “Magdelena is a COA student working with Pam Gagnon Desilva who is also part of this.”

That advocacy, community-focus, and work is also a part of love for the people who work with others to explore topics like love and domestic violence, which impacts many in Hancock County and Maine.

Cutler and McLean both used to bring their children to a Hancock County playground. They’d talk as the children played. Each were being abused at home.

They didn’t tell each other.

“There we were, week after week, not saying a word,” said Cutler in a 2020 interview with Sarah Hinckley, then with the Mount Desert Islander. “I just left town and she didn’t really know why.”

That was years ago. Their kids are grown up now. And both women survived their situations, working to make positive impacts on their communities through art, photography, and advocacy.

During that interview, Cutler told Hinckley that art was therapeutic. It’s also a way to begin conversations that are often difficult, conversations that resonate, conversations that build epiphanies. That is still true.

“Some kids narrated their thoughts as they worked. I see the process as open ended, something to return to. Working with torn colored paper sparked conversations as they moved the paper in a different way from drawing,” Cutler explained about the process of creation prior to the upcoming event. “I had lined paper and pencils as well which were mostly abandoned for more tactile or colorful materials.”

The kids met at ArtWaves, the YMCA, local libraries, the Trenton School, and COA students came to do mosaics and write. 

“I wish I grew up thinking how to visually express this and have a common language with my peers,” Cutler said. “Happily, I get to do it now and we had many adults join in, it was wonderful to hear the families working side by side downstairs at the Jesup.”

The receptions are free and open to the public.

via Thinking Humanity


For more information about FINDING OUR VOICES, visit or contact Patrisha McLean directly at 207 322 6460. 

For more information about the NextStep, the domestic violence project that’s served Hancock and Washington Counties for 30 years, visit or this 24/7 HELPLINE 1-800-315-5579.

The Mayo Clinic’s signs of domestic violence.

For ArtWaves information, check out its website.

Caring Unlimited 24-hour helpline: 1-800-239-7298 or

Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-866-834-4357 or

Through These Doors 24-hour helpline: 1-800-537-6066

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Thinking Humanity.

Marsy’s Law for Tennessee.

Bar Harbor Story is a mostly self-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s