Ardis Morrow and Jeff Oens of the Friedman Oens Gallery on Bainbridge Island recently unveiled the product of a collaboration between the two which has seen new life given to a loved one, lost to domestic violence.
Morrow has made it her mission to offer refuge to the victims and families of domestic abuse, since losing her grandnephew, Eli Creekmore, to a severe case of child abuse in her own family. The three-year-old Everett boy was fatally beaten by his father in 1986.
Morrow’s mission has led to the creation of long-term supportive housing for domestic violence survivors and their families in Poulsbo’s Morrow Manor.
The Friedman Oens Gallery on Bainbridge Island recently hosted the unveiling of a bronze statue of Creekmore, to be located at the nearby Morrow Manor Neighborhood Park. On Feb. 24, the bronze statues within the Friedman Oens Gallery were joined by a crowd of people who had all come to see the unveiling of the statue of Creekmore.
“I was amazed at how much it takes from stage to stage, to get to the final sculpture,” Morrow said. “It was amazing. Jeff is such a talented artist, we were lucky to find him.”
The statue, Morrow said, would hopefully serve as a beacon to those suffering from domestic abuse, to seek help before it’s too late. For her though, Morrow said the statue also carried a painful memory as well.
“It reminds me of how I wasn’t able to save him … I think if I had only been more articulate, if I only had done something else. Why couldn’t I get him away? It will haunt me forever,” she said. “But I try to remember that because we have this sculpture now, maybe that might save another child.”
Morrow said she found a semblance of solace in those who will be served by Morrow Manor.
“Eight units for survivors and their families,” she said with a smile. “They can stay longer in Morrow Manor than any of the transitional housing … We’ve also pledged $8,000 a year to help them run it for 10 years.”
The artist behind the Statue of Eli Creekmore, Jeff Oens, said the process of bringing the boy back to life was an emotional one for him.
“This [project] was a little tough, knowing the story behind it,” Oens said. “At first I thought it was a little dark but we’ve adjusted to it and I’ve had a good time.”
“I learned a lot about him in trying to capture his character,” he added.
When asked what he found to be the hardest part of the project, Oens said: “I have kids and grandkids. I can’t imagine having to go through something like that. It’s been very emotional along the way.”
“It was even more emotional once I got him created,” he added. “We kind of made a bond, became friends.”
This story originally appeared in the Kitsap Daily News, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.