LOTUS Legal Clinic is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization that serves survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking. The organization takes a holistic approach to empowering survivors through the Untold Stories and Rise & Thrive arts programs, which connect survivors with artists to collaborate on a shared project.
Austin Reece is the Director of Survivor Empowerment at LOTUS Legal Clinic, and he notes that this year was the first time LOTUS nominated an artist for the Rise & Thrive Residency Fellowship.
“I was thinking of music as a new direction, and knowing that we work with professional artists, I thought it was time to evolve the program to create its own residency with its own allocation to attract top talent and make the program even more expansive for the community,” he explains.
Musician Marielle Allschwang was selected for the inaugural residency and collaborated with four survivor writers to create songs from their poems that explore their experiences of resilience and joy in the aftermath of trauma.
“There’s a lot of information in every song that’s very specific to how I was reacting to people putting themselves in what I think are very vulnerable positions,” Allschwang explains.
The result is the EP “Somewhere to Swim”, which Allschwang recorded with The Visitations. She says she didn’t take the responsibility of creating this album lightly. Allschwang admits sharing creative work with anyone can be nerve-wracking, but surviving writers have done it for her “many times.”
Listen to “Somewhere to Swim” by Marielle Allschwang & The Visitations
Reece hosts the Untold Stories writing workshops from which Rise & Thrive participants are drawn and also produced the EP with Allschwang. He says seeing the work of surviving writers grow through this process has been incredibly rewarding.
“It was really a pleasure to be behind the scenes so to speak, to see all these incredibly creative and caring people doing something magical,” Reece said. “I think the art of creation is very magical and I think that’s maybe where poetry and song certainly overlap in a lot of ways.”
For Allschwang, the Rise & Thrive residency experience was a gift and an example of a true collaborative process.
“These types of collaborations and conversations are opportunities to amplify really important and urgent … primary and essential experiences and needs that we have,” she says. “And I hope that we can, with each other, stay strong through these kinds of seemingly trying experiences and challenges that we may have.”
Listen to “The Gift of Pain” by Marielle Allschwang & The Visitations
The LOTUS Legal Clinic will host a benefit and record-breaking concert on May 13 at The Cooperage with Marielle Allschwang and The Visitations to celebrate “Somewhere to Swim” and showcase the voices of survivors. You can find more information here.