The Wilma W. Daniels Gallery at Cape Fear Community College is tucked away at the cross section of Hanover and 3rd streets, often riddled with traffic of college students rushing to class. Last week, I arrived to the cozy gallery space as its bare white walls featured art work leaning and waiting to be hung. Artists rushed in and out of the cold, creating their own traffic figuratively and metaphorically, as they awaited to become a part of a new exhibition, “I Have a Name.” Inspired by community interest against human trafficking, the Not4$ale Initiative—founded by Educational Partnership Liaison Kate Santhuff at CFCC—promotes awareness against human labor and sex trafficking on both an international and local context.
“As part of a service-learning program, we realized what a huge issue this is,” Santhuff says, “and we really wanted to raise awareness about it. Human trafficking is not limited to international countries—it occurs in our own community. “
The Not4$ale Initiative has organized a series of events to promote and instigate action, as well as offer hope for eradication and prevention of such a heinous crime. Since September they sponsored a screening of the documentary “Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth” and a forum to discuss the issue further.
Appropriately timed, since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Santhuff had a vision for the CFCC exhibition. “I felt that artists would have a response to the issue and that there would be some interesting diverse responses which would speak to people in a new way.”
Most knowledge concerning the issue has come through films, such as “Taken,” as well as crime-fighting TV shows, like “Law and Order.” The reality worldwide is that 27 million people are locked in to forms of modern-day slavery. Thousands of foreign nationals are brought into the U.S. annually with over 300,000 children involved, too, according to statistics gathered by the UN.
Statistics often group people together and, although informative, allow for an individual’s identity to disappear. Titling the exhibition “I Have a Name” is reflective of the outfit’s desire to remind people how human trafficking affects people, individuals who have names, families, dreams, and lives.
Michel Grace, a recent Colorado transplant who moved to Wilmington five years ago to be near her son, is a self-taught artist. She has been creating gourd art for the last 15 years, and her involvement in “I Have a Name” marks her first gallery exhibition.
Grace will showcase two pieces of slowly bent, entangled-together gourds. In the vegetable, she has burned human trafficking statistics and the exhibit name but in different languages, from German to Spanish. Her art makes the phrase a resonating mantra. Entitled “Bound,” she clearly shares how 161 participating countries each year earn $32 billion from such inhumanity. Often, such monies fund the mafia, drug cartels and terrorist organizations.
The simplicity of Grace’s branded art penetrates the psyche. She has included in her piece a plastic gavel to remind visitors of the lack of justice for victims of human trafficking, and of the action that needs to be taken against it.
As we sit and talk in a corner of the gallery, artists trickled by with paintings and such to contribute. CFCC called out to artists through their website and local media. The turnout is staggering as more than 40 works of art by about 30 artists will make up the exhibit.
Grace responded to the call for artists by researching the issue carefully. “I was just appalled at how many children are involved, what the money funds and how this isn’t just a global problem but a local one,” she laments. “After researching I just had to create something. I couldn’t just sit by and not do anything. I wanted to raise awareness by being part of this exhibition.”
Sunlight floods the gallery space upon my exit, which seems fitting for an exhibition that sheds light and hope on such a dark aspect of society.” I Have a Name” will be on display at the Wilma W. Daniels Gallery, Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 5 p.m. The exhibition will be on display until February 7.
For more information and updates check out http://cfcc.edu/blogs/wilmagallery.DETAILS:
I Have a Name
Featuring over 40 works
by 30 artists, including the gourd art of Michel Grace
Wilma W. Daniels Gallery
2000 Hanover Street
Tuesday-Friday, noon – 5 p.m.
On display through February 7th