Kentucky Foundation for Women is pleased to announce that Doris Thurber will be the recipient of the 2023 Sallie Bingham Award. The award will be given at the foundation’s annual celebration of community, KFW Day, on October 1.
Thurber will be honored for her work and dedication to using art to promote social change and healing. After the death of her daughter Maya from a drug overdose, Thurber and friends overcame their feelings of hopelessness to build a program that used creativity to heal trauma and addiction. In 2016, Hands Healing HeArts (now Yes Arts) was founded. The organization works with youth and adults mobilizing the power of community in Frankfort and the arts to disrupt the cycle of addiction.
“Yes Arts (formerly Hands Healing HeArts) has become a strong influence in the community, employing the arts in a variety of ways to enhance both recovery and prevention. For me personally, Yes Arts continues to astound me. It has gone from a small seed of an idea nurtured by me and a handful of friends, to a robust organization which, in a large variety of ways, has a profound influence on both children and adults,” said Thurber.
Thurber is an enduring force in Frankfort. She is primarily a visual artist, focusing on batik and collage on cloth. She is also a writer, arts educator, arts workshop leader, community builder, collaborator, inspirer and innovator. Her own work persistently includes feminist themes of spirituality, community-care and care of the Earth. She is a collaborator, with hands in multiple projects around Frankfort.
Before co-founding Yes Arts, Thurber led art workshops at the Franklin County women’s shelter and led a team of teenage artists to create a mural at the local soup kitchen. Her own work has had multiple exhibits in local Frankfort galleries and is displayed at the Paul Sawyier Public Library and the Grand Theatre in Frankfort.
In 2017, she received a Human Rights Award from the organization Church Women United of Franklin County “for her dedication and tireless work to help bring about healing and recovery from drug addiction through the art-based program, Hands Healing HeArts.”
Thurber has spun a thick web of support to lift up women artists in Kentucky, especially in Frankfort. Over the years, artists such as Jennifer Zingg, Joanna Hay, Amelia Berry, Melanie Van Houten, Jeri Katherine Howell and others have all spoken of the ways she has supported their development as artists and as humans.
Thurber sees art as joyful activity that promotes wonder.
“My main motivation for viewing and creating artwork is that it simply makes me feel good. There is a particular delicious feeling that comes over me, an expansion and glow in the area of the heart. This seductive feeling continues to call me to participate in creativity. Of course, the completed art piece also holds importance and wonder. It gives other people an opportunity to be affected by the energy embedded in the images, shapes, and colors; plus they can then add their own narrative, their own stories. Perhaps they will even be inspired to create something themselves,” said Thurber.
She hopes her legacy offers proof to young feminist artists that “the strength, integrity, and playfulness of creativity can wind its way through our entire lives, enhancing all that we do in all arenas.”
“Doris embodies the values of the Sallie Bingham Award, whether by incorporating feminist themes into her own artwork, creating arts programs that benefit women and girls in her Kentucky community or supporting other feminist artists in her network. She is truly a leader in changing the lives of women and girls in Kentucky through the arts. KFW is thrilled to present Doris Thurber with this year’s Sallie Bingham Award,” said Sharon LaRue, Executive Director of Kentucky Foundation for Women.
Named for KFW’s founder, the Sallie Bingham Award recognizes Kentucky women who are leaders in changing the lives of women and girls across the state by supporting feminist expression in the arts. Recipients show a demonstrated and sustained commitment to excellence in feminist art and to advancing social change that impacts women and girls in Kentucky. The award was founded in 1996 by former KFW Director, Ann Stewart Anderson. Winners are selected by nominations or by recommendation from the KFW staff or Board. Previous winners include 2022 winner Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, fabric artist Alma Lesch, writer and arts mentor Judy Sizemore, and writer Crystal Wilkinson. For more information on the award, check out: https://www.kfw.org/awards/sallie-bingham-award/