Artwork made last year for the Hearts United for One Billion Rising event. Credit: Courtesy of Mona Gazala

Handcrafted hearts are not a rarity in mid-February, but local artists are making them not for a loved one, but a special cause.

One Billion Rising is a worldwide campaign that started in 2012 to raise awareness about gender-based violence, calling on women to come together on or close to Feb. 14 for “V-day.” Since 2013, Mona Gazala, gallery director for Second Sight Studio, answered that call and brought the campaign to Columbus by creating the Hearts United for One Billion Rising event.

“Particular to this year, we are bombarded with news stories about things that are going on in the world, and in the country, which is kind of mind-numbing,” Gazala said. “You almost feel helpless.”

People are invited to make a heart of the material of their choice — many choose encouraging messages, statistics or thoughts pertaining to women’s empowerment. The hearts will be hung on the Bellows End school yard fence across from Second Sight Studio in Franklinton from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Gazala said they will leave the installation up overnight.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one in three women will be a victim of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Gazala said making a tangible art piece can help people internalize social justice issues, such as violence against women.

“The thing about an art project like this is that it gets you into a social-justice issue like violence against women by actually making you feel it, walk around it, touch it, be able to go to people and it helps you to internalize the idea of things needing to be done that might actually help,” Gazala said.

Among those who are contributing to the installation are are local schools, both teachers and children, artists, residents and organizations including the Columbus Museum of Art, Creative Women of Color and Open Door Art Studio.

After hearing about the project less than a month ago, the Columbus Museum of Art set up a section called “The Modern Woman” within its permanent collection, “The Social Mirror.”

“The works of art are not particularly about women being abused, they’re about women,”said Merilee Mostov, director of inclusive interpretation for the museum. “It’s something that every woman can relate to.”

Mostov said that after visiting the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to join the conversation about women’s rights by writing their thoughts on heart-shaped paper. The hearts will be delivered to Second Sight to be used in the Hearts United art installation.

Returning to the event is the Creative Women of Color collaborative. Leading artist in the project April Sunami said that artists from the organization plan to contribute collaborative pieces for a third year in a row to further their goal of supporting the community through art.

“You can’t disagree with the cause, especially now, I think it’s something that we can all get behind,” Sunami said. “All of the issues related to justice are on the chopping block and it seems like we all need to fight for them. As artists, we need to bring attention to those issues.”

Open Door Art Studio — a gallery that features artwork made in-studio by artists with disabilities — has been using Hearts United to bring attention to social justice issues since the beginning in 2013.

“It’s kind of like a peaceful protest through art,” said studio registrar Claire Smith.

Even though it started four years ago, Gazala said the message is just as powerful, if not moreso, now than it was when it began.

“It’s been timely for the last few years and, unfortunately, I feel like we’re kind of slipping in the fight for equality,” Gazala said. “It’s important to just keep it out there and to basically send a message that we’re behind women who have been affected by this issue and we’re going to show them our support.”

Anyone can contribute artwork, but is encouraged to let Second Sight Studio know beforehand. The studio is located at 730 Bellows Ave. in Franklinton.