Bittin Foster Duggan, MA, originator and facilitator of the Growing Through It (GTI) art workshops, is a nationally exhibited artist who currently lives and works in Coos Bay, Oregon with her growing family. Bittin has traveled the world sharing her soul and artwork. Others were so moved by some of her art pieces that Bittin became inspired and began facilitating GTI art workshops to support individual healing and personal growth.
Bittin worked as the Adult Programs Director at VSA arts of Washington from 1999 to 2001. She brought a highly integrative approach to her management of the five Adult Programs supported by the organization. In 2002 she initiated and managed the Seattle Center Artists Studio, a free and accessible public art studio. This studio is possibly the first of its kind in the country.
Bittin earned a Master’s Degree in Whole Systems Design at Antioch Univeristy Seattle, completing her degree work in 1999. In this program she took the GTI philosophy and practice to more integrative levels, working with a wider array of people. Bittin has been active in a
variety of community-based organizations, always expanding her experience of art and living.
After growing up in the Toledo, Ohio area, Bittin entered the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1986. In 1989, she studied art in Florence, Italy and traveled through Europe and Egypt. While in Egypt, on a trip to the Sinai Desert, she was injured in an auto accident. “I was in a coma for five days,” says Bittin. “When I came out I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what was the matter with me, but I knew that something inside of me was different.”
When Bittin returned to the University of Colorado five months after the accident, she struggled to regain her memory, cognition and artistic skills. Her art was not only inspired by, but critical to her regaining a whole sense of self. “My art was different after the accident,” recalls Bittin. “I barely had any patience…I did not want to be limited by the flatness of two-dimensional surfaces, so I began creating larger three-dimensional oil paintings.” For her graduation show in December 1991, she created an eleven by eleven foot three-dimensional ten-panel collage entitled Bittin’s Peace: Seven Inner Women. “I created this piece as an artistic expression of my recovery” says Bittin. “It came from a very deep place within me, deeper than I knew existed.”
While organizing a one-woman show in February, 1993, Bittin attended a meeting of the Boulder chapter of the Colorado Head Injury Foundation, and was inspired to develop an entire show on the basis of her recovery process through her art. Tree to Tree: Recovery Transformation opened at the Boulder Artists’ Gallery February 12. “It was an incredible turn-out, I received positive encouragement and support. Many people were inspired to reconsider the way they see their own lives.” says Bittin.
She contacted the National Head Injury Foundation (NHIF) Survivors’ Council about producing a traveling show, and discovered that the NHIF was about to hold a meeting in Denver. “I brought some pieces to Denver to show the representatives from the affiliated State Foundations. Their responses were very encouraging, positive and supportive,” says Bittin. “Five representatives expressed an interest in helping me bring the show to their state conferences.” A three week show at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, CO, began the tour. All were touched by the entire show, especially Bittin’s Peace: 7 Inner Women.
Two weeks after coming home from a return visit to Egypt, four years after the date of her trauma. Bittin showed at Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO. Renelda Muse of Channel 4, Denver’s local NBC affiliate, interviewed Bittin for a 3 minute TV feature, City Beat. In mid-September, Bittin hung her show at the CHIF Unconference, a conference dedicated to the needs of brain injured people. “…an incredible powerful experience for me, I felt seen for who I am today…A feeling of strength and recognition that we the people unite together.”
The current Growing Through It Development project has received funds from The Negley Flinn Charitable Foundation, Three Swallows Foundation and generous private donations. Bittin hopes to obtain additional funding to continue offering the Growing Through It workshop process. “I wish for others to be inspired to strive for personal recovery and positive change,” she says.
Bittin’s ultimate goal is to have GTI acquired by a National Service Organization so that the innovative process can be taught to professionals and artists nationwide, making it available to thousands of people from a variety of backgrounds.