April 02, 2020

Shoes hit home in domestic violence show

HOULTON – The shoes came in all shapes, sizes and varieties.

There were sneakers and galoshes, ballet slippers and baby sneakers, all lined up across the floor, climbing up the walls, suspended from the ceiling.

The shoes and a combination of paintings, pictures and poetry have taken center stage inside the Blue Moon Gallery this month, as the Southern Aroostook Cultural Arts Project and the Battered Women’s Project collaborate to sponsor their second annual art show geared toward raising awareness of domestic violence.

The title of this year’s show, which was scheduled to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is “A Walk in Their Shoes.” The arts project last month set about looking for artwork that expressed thoughts on domestic violence and was created with shoes or featured shoes as the subject.

The arts organization is a nonprofit that supports and promotes art in the region. The Battered Women’s Project in Aroostook County has outreach offices at Presque Isle, Caribou, Houlton, Madawaska and Fort Kent.

During an opening reception at the gallery Friday, attendees wandered slowly throughout the room, whispering softly while looking at the exhibits. Many of the pieces were submitted by the Battered Women’s Project, local artists and elementary and high school students from throughout southern Aroostook.

A number of the shoes were painted on or inscribed with such words as “stop the pain” and “you promised no more hitting.”

Maine State Police officers with Troop F in Houlton also submitted a pair of black work boots, signed by several troopers and emblazoned with the words: “State troopers take a stand against domestic violence.”

Susan York, SACA’s executive director, characterized the exhibit as “powerful” during the opening reception.

“It is so powerful, very moving,” she said, snapping pictures of the pieces and the messages that were scrawled on them.

An empty table was displayed with place settings to memorialize four Maine residents who have died as a result of domestic violence.

One setting honored Melissa Mendoza, 29, who was shot to death last August. Mendoza’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel Roberts, is scheduled to go to trial early next year.

Another tiny bowl and spoon, which rested next to a teddy bear, memorialized Stephen Vance Kettle. The 2-year-old died at a Fort Kent hospital in September 2004 after suffering deep internal injuries to the abdomen.

His mother’s boyfriend, Scott Saucier, subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the toddler’s death. He began serving a five-year sentence for the crime last November.

The show will be on display through Oct 28.

Correction: A story on Wednesday’s State page on the domestic violence project in Houlton contained an editing error. The name of the boy who died as a result of domestic violence was Stephen Vance Ketzel, age 2.

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