The art of healing
Jennifer Palmer, honorary chairwoman for the third annual Stacked Deck art show; Leah Wietholter, event chairwoman; Dr. JoAnn Ryan, Resonance board president; and Deidra Kirtley, Resonance executive director, hold artist Cynthia Brown’s painting, “Gypsy Soul.” The piece will be for sale at Stacked Deck. The event benefits Resonance’s “Choosing to Change” program, which will celebrate its first year in February.
After years of struggling to overcome addiction, Christine Martin faced DUI charges and a stay at Tulsa’s Turley Residential Center, a halfway house for incarcerated women.
Feeling she had little hope for a positive future, Martin joined the eight-week “Choosing to Change” program developed by Resonance Center for Women shortly after her sentence began.
The multipronged approach provides relapse prevention, computer courses, exercise, mentoring, job readiness training and more to prepare women for life after prison and, thanks to these resources, a chance at preventing recidivism.
“The program gives us value and tells us we’re not worthless like we feel when we go in the door,” Martin says. “This gave me that push of confidence that I lacked.”
Resonance has helped women for nearly 40 years. In the past six years, it narrowed its mission to promoting and supporting the self-sufficiency of women challenged by their experience in the criminal justice system. Resonance provides substance abuse treatment in lieu of incarceration as well as re-entry services.
In addition to Turley, Resonance facilitates re-entry assistance at the Eddie Warrior and Mabel Bassett correctional centers.
Now, Resonance’s Stacked Deck art show will help fund the successful program. The third annual event is set for 6-9 p.m., Jan. 29, at Sky Loft, 15 E. Fifth St. A VIP preview begins at 5:30 p.m.
This year’s Stacked Deck is a come-and-go progressive art sale with short presentations about Resonance throughout the evening. With the theme “Heart of the Matter,” the fundraiser will weave stories of Resonance clients like Martin into the displayed artwork.
Approximately 75 local artists will participate. Food, drinks and live entertainment round out the night.
The event’s chairwoman, Leah Wietholter, became involved with Resonance through a Tulsa’s Young Professionals board internship.
“I’m a forensic accountant and fraud investigator, so Resonance is a way I can serve women challenged by the criminal system in a different way than on the investigation side,” Wietholter says.
At least a dozen women have been released from Turley following “Choosing to Change,” placed in sober housing and secured employment. Services for the women don’t end after prison. Graduates can continue to connect with Resonance for other needs.
“Many of these women are nonviolent offenders, and their offenses have to do with substance abuse, selling drugs and stealing to support the habit,” says Deidra Kirtley, Resonance executive director. “These aren’t bad people. They just have an addiction problem. If we incarcerate them, it isn’t helping the addiction problem, and when released they often start all over again as re-offenders.”
According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice, approximately three out of four former prisoners (male and female) are arrested within five years of release. And Oklahoma has an uphill battle as the No. 1 state in the nation for female incarceration. Programs like Resonance seek to prevent the cycle.
Martin was released in August and is back with her two daughters, who say they “have their mom back again.” She says her job in office administration at West Construction has helped her find a sense of purpose and normalcy.
Like many recovering addicts, Martin says she makes daily commitments to prevent going down a dark path. And thanks to her mentor, Cathy Hodges, Resonance’s re-entry coordinator who facilitates “Choosing to Change,” Martin has someone she can call whenever she needs.
But more than anything, thinking about that door locking at Turley, or how her girls would feel if she left again, gives Martin motivation to keep moving forward.