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Collaborative Art Piece Benefits Teen Moms

The winning bidder of Girl Power generously donated the piece back to the Florence Crittenton Home and it is on loan to 1+1=1 Gallery to exhibit for the month of September. 1+1=1 will host an open house and artist talk on Sunday evening, September 7th. The gallery is located at 335 North Last Chance Gulch. I would love to see you all there — come down and enjoy some delicious food, beverages and great company.

Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy
Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy … life-size torso cast, paint, collage, calligraphy and other mixed media. 24 inches x 36 inches in a custom built, plexiglass case

The winning bidder of Girl Power generously donated the piece back to the Florence Crittenton Home and it is on loan to 1+1=1 Gallery to exhibit for the month of September. 1+1=1 will host an open house and artist talk on Sunday evening, September 7th. The gallery is located at 335 North Last Chance Gulch. I would love to see you all there — come down and enjoy some delicious food, beverages and great company.

Whew! Last week I finished Girl Power just in time for the benefit auction for Florence Crittenton. This year was the fourth annual Support Our Girls event in which businesses in Helena contribute whimsical and sometimes fancy “bras” to be auctioned off.

When Florence Crittenton began this event four years ago, I was still working there as the life-skills counselor for teen mothers. Together with the girls who were there at the time, I designed and made a bra for that first auction. It was absolutely beautiful and all of the girls who worked on it were proud of their ideas and contributions. Below are some photos of that very first art-bra, titled Sassy Girls, Marvelous Moms.

Deer Family Detail on Girl Power by Maureen Shaughnessy

Anyway … this year, the benefit organizers invited four artists (in addition to local businesses) to create pieces for the auction. I was one of the featured artists. I created a piece based on the idea of empowering our daughters to be independent, strong, healthy individuals, thus the title Girl Power. It’s really about more than girl-power (read the artist statement below for explanation)

Girl Power

When Carrie asked me to make a piece for the Support Our Girls benefit auction, I immediately thought that instead of making a “bra,” I would like to make an art piece using a torso of a breastfeeding mother. In my mind I named it “Girl Power,” and although that name is whimsical, it is also serious.

Florence Crittenton holds young teen moms in supporting hands while they make critical life choices …. choices for themselves and for their babies. One of these choices is whether to breastfeed their babies or not. When it works out, it is one of the best gifts a mother can give to her newborn. 

Yet, there are many other ways these young mothers rise above their often traumatic beginnings to become capable loving mothers. The Florence Crittenton staff delight in the girls, and hold high standards for them … expecting them to learn, explore, and be successful. Yes, these moms are still girls. They are still children. They are still learning as they raise their own children. It is an awesome miracle and so amazing to watch them as they mature, fall down, pick themselves back up again and hold their babies with love. 

As I thought about all of this I wondered about Girl Power and what we, as parents and caring adults, can teach our daughters — teach all girls — to help them embody their own power. So they can live successful, happy, healthy lives and have strong loving relationships. I realized that no matter what we teach our daughters, we also have to teach our sons to be whole, happy human beings. It doesn’t work to lift up one gender and not the other. 

So I asked my community of friends to contribute to this piece by telling me what they wanted to teach our children … our daughters and our sons. The response was amazing. I received over a hundred comments, many of them from former clients of Florence Crittenton. Reading through them brought tears to my eyes. I could not include every single thought I received in the piece, but I hand wrote as many as I could even inside the torso where you just have to imagine what I wrote.  I hope you also feel the power. Girl Power. Boy Power. The Power of Love. And the Power of Connection. 

The images and personal symbols in this piece come from my own experiences growing up in the 50s and 60s … of learning about and connecting with nature, and of finding my way in life. I believe that it is through a deep connection with all life, that human beings become fully human and truly powerful. I was privileged to work for almost five years as the life skills counselor at Flo Crit, and I hope that in my way I was able to teach the girls something of that connection. 

~ Maureen Shaughnessy

Here are a few more photos showing details of Girl Power

Everyone who comes to the open house on the 7th will have a chance to sign the back of the piece, and add your own thoughts to the text if you want to, and if your contribution didn’t make it onto the front of the piece (I tried to include as many as I could, but there were SO many comments from the community I couldn’t write them all on the front.)

See you on the 7th! (email me with questions: [email protected])