Courage Within: Women Without Shelter

January 27, 2022 – April 23, 2022

Four area not-for-profit organizations – Critical Ground, The Fund for Homeless Women, Open Ground Studios, and the Monterey Museum of Art (MMA) — have joined together to use the transformational power of art to raise awareness around the unique plight of unhoused women in our community. 

The exhibition is the culmination of three years of work including bookarts, drawing, painting, and printmaking workshops designed specifically for local women experiencing homelessness and led by four mid-career artists: Dora Lisa Rosenbaum, Denese Sanders, Amanda Salm, and Melissa Smedley. The exhibition will include new conceptual works by these artists as well as installations of work created by the participants in the workshops.

“The goal of this partnership and the impetus behind the exhibition is to help make visible the lives of women who courageously face unspeakable challenges every day. MMA is committed to being a place of belonging for our entire community, so we are especially honored to be part of this important artistic collaboration and proud to present this powerful and remarkable work,” says MMA Executive Director, Corey Madden.


The work of Amanda Salm is textile-based. Her work in the exhibit is concerned with the national subject of housing. She says, “It became apparent to me while working on the project that there are many regional, state and national obstacles to providing reasonable shelter for homeless and vulnerable populations.”


Dora Lisa Rosenbaum’s work includes installation, sculpture, printmaking, and drawing. She focuses on the immense physical labor at the core of women without shelter’s daily experience and existence. She says, “My work explores the difficulty these women face in maintaining their identities and sense of self, and the central role belongings, their things, play in reinforcing these.”

Melissa Smedley’s art for the exhibition at MMA consists of sculptural installation, video performance, and spoken words that seek to make visible these women’s stories and struggles. “My responses are inspired by spending time with the women and while learning more about the array of cultural forces that conspire to make unaccompanied women in our community so vulnerable and unsupported.”

Denese Sanders’ artwork focuses on the women themselves through portraiture. The work aims to reveal the courage and individuality of each woman. This work addresses the complex nature of being looked at and judged in juxtaposition with the recurring pain of feeling invisible and forgotten. She says, “By nature, we all need to be seen and heard in the world, yet for women living with homelessness, identity exposure is too great a risk to their safety and pride, while chronic invisibility crushes their emotional wellbeing.”

About the Partners

Critical Ground is an artist collective comprised of four mid-career artists who gather bimonthly to critique and support the development of one another’s artwork. A strong commitment to the conceptual underpinnings of their art practice helps shape the discussion and propels the work forward. Amanda Salm is a sculptural textile artist who exhibits internationally. Denese Sanders is a painter, book artist, arts educator and award-winning founder of Open Ground Studios. Dora Lisa Rosenbaum is a print, installation, and mixed media artist. She has received several awards and grants in support of her work. Melissa Smedley is a multi-media artist, writer and performer of sculptural events both locally and internationally. Critical Ground takes the lead role in the project. The artists designed and implemented the workshops and have created original art inspired by their experience and collaborative pieces using artwork produced by the women. They have designed the exhibition installation in partnership with MMA and support the development of tools for social action as a component of the exhibition. In addition, the artists will be engaged with educational outreach and special events associated with the exhibition.

The Fund for Homeless Women (FHW) was established in 2012 to help create and sustain innovative services for unsheltered women on the Monterey Peninsula. The collection, investment and strategic disbursement of financial resources is co-facilitated by the Community Foundation for Monterey County – where the Fund is managed. Building an informed community through engaging educational programs is also how FHW fulfills its mission and moves toward its vision of ending homeless for this vulnerable population. FHW’s role in this project is to create connections for Critical Ground with local nonprofits who serve homeless women; provide expertise through their ongoing work and research, provide funds for the project; will design educational outreach opportunities and help with Phase IV with contributions in support of audience impact that encourages social action.

Monterey Museum of Art cultivates curiosity in the visual arts and engages community with the diversity of California art – past, present, and future. MMA’s role in this project is to provide space, advertising, and support for the exhibition, educational outreach opportunities, and contributions in support of audience impact that encourages social action.

Open Ground Studios is an artist collective and community studio; a place where art is the vehicle for learning, practice and connection. This project continues to build on OGS’s socially responsible service to the community by addressing issues of concern through the arts. OGS’s role in this project is to provide meeting and collaborative studio space for Critical Ground artists, storage and access to materials and supplies for the workshops, marketing, grant writing, administrative and promotional support, and contributions in support of audience impact that encourages social action.

About the Not-for-Profit Service Providers for Women

Approximately 1800 people are served yearly by these non-profits.

“Women who do not have children, are unaccompanied, without mental illness, addiction or recent victim abuse are not counted or addressed by the federal government, and programs who serve them are not eligible for funding by the federal government.” – From the Fund for Homeless Women

Gathering for Women was founded in 2018, with a mission to provide homeless women on the Monterey Peninsula with supportive resources and a caring community. The organization supports women by serving hot, nutritious meals, and providing clothing, showers, comprehensive case management support, limited emergency assistance, education to promote a woman’s health and safety, job training, access to free basic health care, and connection to other community services and providers.

Community Homeless Solutions & Women In Transition Program is Monterey County’s largest provider of housing and resources for people experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence. Women-in-Transition: WIT serves 12 single homeless women, including victims of domestic violence, at a 6 two-bedroom unit facility at a confidential location.

I-Help: Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program—operated by Outreach Unlimited, a nonprofit 501©(3) organization in the Monterey Bay, California area. They have been in continuous operation for the past 26 years.

This collaborative project and exhibition have been made possible through the support of Open Ground Studios, The Fund for Homeless Women and the Arts Council for Monterey County.


Thank you to the Carmel Woman’s Club for supporting this exhibition.



Amanda Salm, Address, Cast shredded paper, 138 houses – each measuring 7 x 5″, Image © Amanda Salm.

Dora Lisa Rosenbaum, Burdens, 2020. Concrete, plastic, textile, 24x15x12. Image © Dora Lisa Rosenbaum.

Melissa Smedley, Housekeeping: Keeping House, 2020-2021, Video still. Image © Melissa Smedley.

Denese Sanders, Bound (detail), Oil on wood panel, macramé string. Image © Denese Sanders.