Artist Spotlight: Kelly Towles on the Intersection of Art and Social Justice


If you’re plugged into the Washington, D.C., art scene, you may have seen Kelly Towles’ work in exhibitions at the David Adamson Gallery. But it doesn’t take an art enthusiast to catch a glimpse of his murals around town at places like U Street Music Hall, Toki Underground, DC Brau and Graffiato. Towles has work for sale tomorrow at CASS’s 6th anniversary party, “Lights, Camera, Collective Action!” from 6:00-8:30pm at Room & Board in DC. He took some time to chat with CASS about his work and the universal human experience of equipping ourselves to deal with everyday obstacles and challenges of the society in which we live.

Your love for DC is clear in your work. But can you talk about why you support CASS’ efforts to end street harassment in the district?

Harassment shouldn’t happen anywhere. Hopefully with support and awareness, people will rally behind this cause, because it will make our city a better place overall.

cass - street harassment art dc Your art is about individuals dealing with the world around them, and what they wear or do to feel best equipped to do that. Why is this so important to you, and how do you feel best equipped to handle the world around you?

I sometimes never really feel equipped to deal with people – I don’t think anyone can.  Those are life lessons: Learning after time how to navigate and sail through life, and dealing with people. It is so unpredictable, but it can also be so rewarding when you run aground on that someone or someones who have the same current or feelings that you do and can return them.

How does art intersect with social justice? Put another way, how does art empower or inspire people to make lasting change?

I think art and music are the great denominators. You can make simple, powerful messages that anyone can understand. You just have to use the right language, which for me is visual.

BONUS: Art by DC’s  Elizabeth Graeber and  Lisa Marie Thalhamme

At tomorrow’s “Lights, Camera, Collective Action!” event, you can snag a Kelly Towles original, or peruse work by any of our other featured artists, including illustrator Elizabeth Graeber, Nima Veiseh and  Lisa Marie Thalhammer, known for her “Boxer Girl” pieces. (See Graeber, Veisehand Thalhammer’s work below, respectively.)

>> Don’t wait! Get your tix for our Thursday, April 16th “Lights, Camera, Collective Action!” party now!


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WMATA, Lyft, RightRides…We’re on a Roll!

Here’s latest newsletter, sent today! Don’t receive it? Sign up now! 

Seen Our New Anti-Harassment PSAs On Metro?

Have you ridden the metro in the past week? Then you’ve probably seen our new anti-harassment PSAs with WMATA! The PSAs are part of WMATA’s anti-harassment campaign, which was sparked by CASS’s advocacy efforts in 2012. We couldn’t be more proud of WMATA for leading the way in helping make public transit safe for all.
>>> Here’s the awesome story behind it all.

We’re Partnering with Lyft and #ItsOnUs!

Big news – we’re partnering with the ridesharing service, Lyft! Along with Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment, CASS will help develop anti-sexual harassment and assault training materials for Lyft drivers. The project is in conjunction with #ItsOnUs, the White House-led initiative to end sexual assault.
>>> Learn more about the awesome project.

Our Next RightRides DC Service Date is Fri., March 27

We rang in 2015 with our second RightRides DC service date, and it was a smashing success! Thirty-six people received free, safe rides home to all areas of NW and NE DC — a big increase from our first service date in October. We added an extra car to the fleet and an extra 30 minutes of service thanks to the generosity of our amazing volunteers and our official RightRides DC sponsor, Zipcar.
>>> We’ll see you again from 12:00-3:30am on March 27. Don’t forget to save the RightRides number (202-556-4232) in your phone!

Help Us Make DC Bars Safer

CASS regularly receives submissions from the DC community on unwanted sexual attention, including physical assault, that takes place in local bars and clubs. As a result, we’re starting a new advocacy project to make every alcohol-serving establishment safe and welcoming. And we need your help to get started.
>>> Please take a minute to fill out our survey on your experiences with harassment or assault at DC bars or clubs.

Save the Date: “Lights, Camera, Collective Action” is April 16

Remember that awesome anniversary party we throw each year? It’s back! Our annual “Lights, Camera, Collective Action” party will be Thursday, April 16, 2015 from 6:00-8:30pm at Room & Board off U Street. Want to get in free? We need the support of awesome volunteers who can help us with a range of tasks, from getting necessary supplies to helping set up food and drinks to greeting attendees.
>>> Sign up to volunteer now!

We Held Another Anti-Harassment Training

Earlier this month, we conducted our an anti-street harassment training in Spanish for 25 amazing employees at Mary’s Center for Maternal Child Care, Inc.! The workshop, titled “Street Harassment 101: Building a Safe City,” covered definitions, assertive responses and bystander intervention strategies.
>>> Learn how you can have CASS train your group or organization.

ICYMI: Read Our 2014 Annual Report!

With your help, we accomplished a LOT in 2014! We launched RightRidesDC, helped pass the Sexual Assault Victim Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (SAVRAA) and trained 415 community members on anti-street harassment. “Before learning about CASS, I kept my head down and accepted harassment as a norm in my life,” said DC resident, Emily Biondo.
>>> Read Emily’s story and in more in our full report, “What CASS Taught Me.” 

On the CASS Blog

Harassed on the Bus: “I’m Trying Not to Let it Ruin My Day”

“How CASS Taught Me to Intervene When I Saw a Stranger Hit a Woman”

“What Do You Do When a Guy at a Bar Will NOT Take ‘No’ for an Answer?”

“A Man Indecently Exposed Himself to My Young Child”

>>>>> Share your own story with CASS.