'Somewhere to Swim' EP brings together song & poetry to amplify the voices of survivors
LOTUS Legal Clinic is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that serves survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking. The organization takes a holistic approach to empowering survivors through the art programs Untold Stories and Rise & Thrive, which connects 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 appointed an artist for the Rise & Thrive Residency Fellowship.
"I was thinking about music as a new direction, and knowing that we're working with professional artists I thought it was time to evolve the program to create its own residency with its own stipend to attract top talent and to make the program even more expansive to the community," he explains.
Musician Marielle Allschwang was selected for the inaugural residency, and collaborated with four survivor-writers to create songs out of their poems that explore their experiences of resilience and joy in the aftermath of trauma.
"There’s a lot of information in each song that’s very specific to how I was responding to individuals who put themselves in what I think were very vulnerable positions," says Allschwang.
The result is the EP “Somewhere to Swim,” which Allschwang recorded along with The Visitations. She says that she didn't take the responsibility of creating this album lightly. Allschwang admits that sharing creative work with anyone can be nerve-wracking, but the survivor writers did that for her "many times over."
Reece facilitates the Untold Stories writing workshops that Rise & Thrive participants come from and also produced the EP along with Allschwang. He says that seeing the work of the survivor writers grow throughout this process was incredibly rewarding.
"It was a definitely a thrill to be behind the scenes as it were, to see all these incredibly creative, caring people just doing something kind of magical," says Reece. "The art of creation I think 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 kinds of collaborations and conversations are opportunities to amplify really important and urgent ... primal, essential experiences and needs that we have," she says. "And hopefully we're able to, together with one another, remain strong through this sort of seemingly pummeling experiences and challenges that we can have."
LOTUS Legal Clinic will be having a benefit and record release concert May 13 at The Cooperage featuring Marielle Allschwang & The Visitations to celebrate 'Somewhere to Swim' and showcase the voice of survivors. You can find more information here.