March 25, 2015, Los Angeles, CA
For Immediate Release
William Bush / Gramercy Partners, Inc.
Los Angeles Artists Propose Solutions to Human Trafficking Through Art
Hidden in Plain Site features creative referendums developed by a team of concerned artists in order to raise awareness of and help thwart human trafficking. Opens April 26, 2015.
Debating Through the Arts presents Hidden in Plain Site: Creative Referendums to Human Trafficking, a series of exhibitions and public programs inspired by the United Nations (UN), which address the phenomenon of human trafficking. Exhibitions and programs are open to the general public and will run from April 26 through June 6, 2015 in several locations throughout San Pedro, CA.
Founded in 2009 by Jerri Allyn and Inez S. Bush, the overall goal of Debating Through the Arts is to demonstrate the importance of artists’ contributions in identifying, articulating and addressing complex challenges we as a society face in the 21st century, such as human trafficking.
“Most members of the Artist Team were alarmed to discover that slavery has existed since the beginning of human commerce – and continues today,” explained co-founder, artist and project manager Allyn. More surprising to learn is that human trafficking, which some call ‘modern day slavery,’ is ‘hidden in plain sight’ right here in Los Angeles.”
San Pedro, home to The Port of Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest shipping ports, offers an alluring ‘site’ for this program given the number of people smuggled into the United States from around the world, some in cargo containers. (It’s estimated that 700,000 are trafficked within the US yearly, K.Harris, The State of Human Trafficking in California, c2012.)
Fittingly the artistic solutions (creative referendums) developed by the seven participating artists, will be presented in two cargo containers temporarily sited on the bluff at Angels Gate Park, City of Los Angeles, Department of Parks. Team members have designed art installations and performances that will be framed within the two cargo containers overlooking the Port. Audiences will be asked to vote on their favorite ‘creative referendums’ as they do in the General Assembly of the United Nations.
In addition, fifteen ‘at risk’ students from Angels Gate High School in San Pedro participated in an 18 week arts course with Allyn where they were asked to explore their personal relationships to issues corresponding with human trafficking, such as freedom and confinement, dominance and submission, power over and power within. The resulting artworks, 3-foot by 5-foot acrylic paintings on canvas, are currently on display at the school and will remain on view there through April 5, 2015.
Other exhibitions and locations include:
A participant dialogue and paintings by student artists to be featured in the Community Gallery at Angels Gate Cultural Center;
Public programs and glass-case exhibit at the San Pedro Regional Library, Los Angeles Public Library.
“The Team is also aligning with some agencies who are part of a regional coalition organized by California Attorney General, Kamala Harris,” Allyn reveals, “to continue to raise awareness, invite dialogue, and take action toward interrupting the exploitation, forced labor, and trafficking of human beings.”
Members of the Artist Team featured in the cargo container installations at Angels Gate Park are Jerri Allyn, Melissa Crandall, Katelyn Dorroh, Leah Laird, Christine Palma, Leah Solo, April Williams and Erich Wise.
Student artists, whose works will be displayed in the Community Gallery, Angels Gate Cultural Center are Christopher Alvarez, Andrew Alcaraz, Deandra Blade, Jonathon Carrillo, Jacque Culpepper, Edgar Estrella, Yasmin Garcia, Samuel Jones, Miranda Juarez, Sam Lopez, Roland Smith, Rayleen Thompson, Emily Varela, Elizabeth White, Angel Zavala and Assistant Teaching Artist, Rosanna Seimeca.
An opening reception for both the container installations at Angels Gate State Park and student exhibition at nearby Community Gallery, Angels Gate Cultural Center will be held Sunday, April 26, 2015 from 2:00-5:00pm and is open to the public.
Angels Gate Park, City of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and
Angels Gate Cultural Center
3601 Gaffey Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
Cargo Containers & Gallery hours: Monday-Saturday 12:00-5:00pm
Opening Reception: Sunday, April 26, 2015, 2:00-5:00 pm
San Pedro Regional Library-LA Public Library
931 South Gaffey Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
Library hours: Monday-Thursday 10:00am-8:00pm; Friday-Saturday 9:30am-5:30pm; Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm
Exhibition Dates: April 26 – June 6, 2015
This art project and public programs are made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs; Joan D’Amore, Angels Gate High School; Matt Matich, Alternative Education Work Center, Los Angeles Unified School District; the staff at Angels Gate Park, City of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and Angels Gate Cultural Center; David Ellis, San Pedro Regional Library, San Pedro; and Sinetta Farley, Restoration Diversion Services, Compton; Sunnie Brooks, Two Wings, Los Angeles, CA, USA; Romy Solomon, Education/Prevention Activist-Human Trafficking, Moldova, Eastern Europe.
Hidden in Plain Site: Creative Referendums to Human Trafficking
Through a process of debate, caucus, collaboration and voting that echoes United Nations (UN) proceedings, Hidden in Plain Site: Creative Referendums to Human Trafficking, is the sixth Debating Through the Arts event facilitated by Jerri Allyn.
Four Artist Team members – Christine Palma, Leah Solo and Erich Wise and Jerri Allyn – inspired by United Nations, propose artistic responses and solutions to human trafficking with area residents who joined them last fall to work on a collaborative project – Melissa Crandall, Katelyn Dorroh, Leah Laird and April Williams.
Team members have designed art installations and performances that will be framed within two cargo containers, sited on the bluff at Angels Gate Park. San Pedro, home to The Port of Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest shipping ports, offers an alluring ‘site’ for this program given the number of people smuggled into the United States from around the world – some in cargo containers where they can survive for 14 days (700,000 are trafficked within the US yearly). The conceptual framework has focused on the development of creative referendums also known as artistic solutions (as in the UN), in a variety of media – sculpture, painting, audio art, artist postcards and performance. Audiences will be asked to vote on their favorite ‘creative referendums’ as they do in the General Assembly at the United Nations.
Allyn facilitated an 18 week art workshop for ‘at risk’ students at Angels Gate High School, from September 2014 to February 2015. She asked students to visually explore their personal relationship to some issues raised: freedom and confinement, dominance and submission, power over and power within. Participants developed their ideas, concluding 3-foot by 5-foot acrylic paintings on canvas. Allyn has been part of an interdisciplinary teaching team exploring aspects of human trafficking. Teens have researched, written papers and done presentations as well as explored the topic through art. Their instructors have been underscoring tactics to avoid predators who recruit tweens as early as 12-14 year olds. Students will additionally be participating in community service internships, assisting with related programs at Angels Gate Cultural Center, the San Pedro Farmers Market and the Library.
Currently their artwork is on exhibit at Angels Gate High School, from February 11 to April 5, 2015. Student artists, whose paintings will be featured in the Community Gallery at Angels Gate Cultural Center are Christopher Alvarez, Andrew Alcaraz, Deandra Blade, Jonathon Carrillo, Jacque Culpepper, Edgar Estrella, Yasmin Garcia, Samuel Jones, Miranda Juarez, Sam Lopez, Roland Smith, Rayleen Thompson, Emily Varela, Elizabeth White, Angel Zavala – plus Assistant Teaching Artist Rosanna Seimeca
“Most members of the Artist Team were alarmed to discover that slavery has existed since the beginning of human commerce – and continues today,” explained co-founder, artist and project manager Allyn. “More surprising to learn is that human trafficking, which some call ‘modern day slavery,’ is ‘hidden in plain sight’ right here in Los Angeles.” Maids, nannies, farm workers, health care and textile factory workers, masseuses/masseurs, nail salonists, young men and women in the commercial sex trade, are being trafficked in-to, and out-of, southern California.
There is some good news. Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves, makes a cogent argument: Estimates of 25 million people being trafficked on a black market that makes 30 billion a year are shocking to learn about. However, human trafficking has moved to the margins of commercial enterprise worldwide. A ‘proposed referendum’ by Bales? Purchase everyone currently in slavery. Buy them out. Set them free…“…for $10.8 billion dollars… what Americans spend on potato chips and pretzels in a year.”
Allyn is drawing on a community-based, several-partner strategy in District 15, looking at this phenomenon locally in order to better understand it globally. An overall goal is to demonstrate the importance of artists’ contributions in addressing this complex challenge we are facing in the 21st century. Beyond dry facts and statistics, advocacy campaigns for new laws, and court cases with legal language that make prosecutions hard to follow, creative expression puts a human face on trafficking.
“The Team is also aligning with some members of a larger regional coalition organized by California Attorney General, Kamala Harris,” Allyn reveals, “to continue to raise awareness, invite dialogue, and take action toward interrupting the exploitation, forced labor, and trafficking of human beings – in San Pedro and Los Angeles.”
Descriptions of Art installations in two Cargo Containers and Artists Bio’s
Reverse Graffiti – On-site Installation
In the narrowing space between both shipping containers, which are coated with debris, Dorroh creates reverse graffiti. This is a process where dirt, soot, and other grime that has collected on the metal surface is selectively removed to create an image, a metaphor to examine the issue of human trafficking. The artist treats the act of cleaning as a barely visible, ephemeral index of many trafficked people, especially domestic workers. This portrait will diminish in detail as more layers of particulates accumulate and other debris obliterate her markings, during the 5 weeks the installation is on view. This work highlights the extant to what one can know concerning the trafficking of other human beings. Whatever image can be constructed is fleeting and difficult to decipher.
Human Packaging – Installation
Proposed Referendum: Become more thoughtful in purchasing habits. Seek out socially conscious companies.
Human trafficking is the process of dehumanizing and converting a human being into a commodity, as well as the willful denial of trafficking in the eyes of consumers who fuel the act with their purchases. Dorroh explores these two characteristics in her mixed media artwork, Human Packaging. Set in a large, life-sized cardboard box that has a variety of design elements and fonts that allude to commercial text, Dorroh includes warning labels, content that may educate the viewer, and information about what viewers can actually do about trafficking. This artwork acts as a hub for “Referendums” the Team has developed to ease the occurrence or severity of human trafficking.
Katelyn Dorroh Bio
Katelyn Dorroh is an artist who utilizes an extensive span of materials and techniques to inquire about the accessibility and utility of art. For the exhibition, Hidden in Plain Sight: Creative Referendums to Human Trafficking, Dorroh attempts to accept the limitations that block one from a competent understanding of human trafficking, and how accepting what is not known presents a different set of solutions to it. A graduate with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California-Irvine, Dorroh has a well-developed art making practice and several years of experience making public art. She is currently living and making art in Southern California.
Sand Tray Play – Installation
Proposed Referendum: The real cost of some dolls, made by child labor, may be too high. Consider buying toys from local companies or those with fair labor practices.
Solo invites the public to create an experience of “containment and freedom” from their unconscious by playing with broken dolls, super heros and toys to make their own visual tableau. Inspired by Barbie, a short story by Eve Ensler (from her publication, I am an Emotional Creature), audiences will learn about a girl in China who assembles only Barbie heads. Other Barbie parts are assembled in Japan and finished in Korea. Solo is inspired by Wassilasa, a Russian version of the Cinderella fairy tale about a young woman finding her way and learning self-reliance – as opposed to a prince (or trafficker) who gives her life purpose (or owns and controls her). Viewers are invited to meditate on “enslavement” with the objects provided in this interactive installation, within recycled, doll packaging and cardboard “containers” that were discarded, then retrieved from the trash for a newly imagined use.
Psychic Art Therapist Performance
Based on “sandbox tray therapy,” Solo will perform as a “psychic art therapist” during the opening, “interpretating” the constructions for interested participants.
Leah Solo Bio
Leah Solo is an artist, performer and activist who is launching a private practice as a multi-lingual creative arts therapist. She is a doctoral candidate at the California institute of Integral Studies in Women’s Spirituality, has an MA in Depth Psychology, and a BA in Humanities. Art, therapy, nutrition, vision therapy and neuro-feedback inform her creative work. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, she has performed in theaters and museums internationally. Solo is excited to raise awareness about exploitation and trafficking in relation to capitalism worldwide and consumerism in the United States.
Consume and Emergence – Paintings
Proposed Referendum: Challenge the cool pimp… and support Restoration Diversion Services, an organization in Compton on the ‘Track’- Long Beach Boulevard – whose volunteers rescue young women ‘in the life’ who have been coerced to sell their bodies.
The character of the pimp in American media has long been viewed as a cool, suave macho man firmly in control of his stable of ‘grateful’ girls who would be lost without him. In reality, sex trafficking in America is as brutal and dehumanizing as it is in any foreign country. The glorified American pimp is no better or different than a sex trafficker in Asia, Africa or Europe. The artist has been investigating and challenging the image of the glorified American pimp through a series of small and large-scale oil paintings on unstretched canvas.
April Williams Bio
The artist April Williams is an oil painter based in southern California. She lives a double life of working in the medical field and making art. Human beings and the conditions of their lives are her favorite subject. April has always wanted to use her creative voice to speak out about the social ills we face, so she jumped at the chance to join the Artist Team and create an artistic response to the mostly invisible but terrible reality of human trafficking. April hopes that her creative contributions, as well as those of her fellow Art Team members, will raise public awareness and add to discussions about solutions to the problem of human trafficking.
A Little Help or
The More I’m Under, the Less I See or
Don’t Push Me Around – Performance
Proposed Referendum: Take charge of your own body. When you suspect trafficking, take action.
Explorations on the themes of hiding and exposure represent the experience of trafficked people who are being moved around against their will. Movement tableaus with fabric, music and props in both well-lit and shadowy tunnel entrances (near the site of the cargo containers) will be utilized in this dance performance. Notions of ownership and dominance are represented visually through costuming, equating the enslavement of humans to cattle in enclosures. A process of disempowerment is explored. Artist and audience interaction is then used to convey the process of empowerment, giving the audience a direct experience of the joy and satisfaction of helping individuals to gain their freedom. Audience members will be invited to remove garment hang-tags attached to Crandall’s costume, during her performance, each hang tag representing salvation for a trafficked person.
Melissa Crandall Bio
Melissa Crandall is an accomplished dancer and instructor who uses movement to express emotions, ideas and beauty. Her experience with performances utilizing audience interaction in close proximity, include experimental dance, performance art and a flash mob for the organization, Free the Slaves. Melissa earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dramatic Arts from the University of California Santa Barbara and is working towards a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Antioch University. She is inspired by the plight of slavery and trafficked victims to use art as an opportunity for awareness and to search for solution-based learning to rescue survivors.
Ghost People – Sculpture
Proposed Referendum: Become aware.
Palma has sculpted a three-dimensional ceramic tableau consisting of several cargo containers about a foot in length, which include trafficked victims in subjugated states, and survivors in empowered states. Victims are represented as ghosts of simple shapes and forms depicted in a kind of graveyard surrounding the containers. Other ceramic figures, primitive and monochromatic, climb to the top of the containers, freeing themselves.
Narrative – Audio Art Installation
Proposed Referendum: Volunteer with a local organization such as Two Wings or Gems to support survivors of trafficking.
Palma has composed a narrative audio collage made up of layered sound bites from interviews with volunteers and the founders of organizations who rescue and support survivors to find new careers of their choosing. Edited snippets, for instance, from a volunteer who is a celebrity hairdresser, speak of creating a new look that reflects inner beauty, as well as gaining skills to land new work for survivors. Cumulatively, the layered accounts form a metaphorical fugue. Audio speakers installed throughout the cargo container continuously broadcast the voices on an audio loop.
Pray for Us – Sculptures for nichos surrounding cargo containers
Proposed Referendum: Pray for help.
Palma has also crafted clay sculptural ‘saints’ for niches outside of the cargo containers, within the old military fortification. Some are Catholic saints, like Santa Lucia, blinded, carrying her eyes and searching for the light. Some are fictitious. A lost soul can pray to these saints for help.
Christine Palma Bio
Christine Palma, a graduate of Creative Writing and Studio Arts from Loyola Marymount University, has been active as an artist, web designer, writer, Producer and Host of Echo in the Sense, a 20-year old, weekly radio broadcast on KXLU Los Angeles 88.9 FM. Her art and radio work reflects an interest in labor, socially concerned cultural projects, and an exploration of art materials. This is Palma’s first exploration into experimental audio, marrying her interests in radio and art. Palma is Filipino-American. She is concerned that the Philippines is a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking.
Proposed Referendum: Many children, teens and adults, continuously threatened with extreme violence, are be killed while trying to escape, or literally worked to death. Remember, and honor, those who have died.
As a shadow and reflection of the shipping containers on site during the exhibition, two 20-foot by 8-foot rectangles are cleared of sea grass and plants. Human trafficking is largely invisible to the public. Wise carves out a habitat for reflection, without dictating the experience. The history of the site, with its old barracks and cement fortifications, is left to be reinterpreted and used in new, novel ways, such as a center for cultural work. The shapes reflecting the shipping containers, places audience members in a space much like a walking circle, but closed-in and as determined as the container which houses so many things transported, or human beings who are trafficked. The rectangle transformations, along with the history of the site, the view of the second largest port in the world, and the great Pacific Ocean – add to the sense of connectedness/isolation machinery of our world. It is important to the artist that this ‘temporary foundation memorial’ be allowed to live and weather in the space, eventually being taken over by nature.
Erich Wise Bio
Erich Wise works toward understanding the interrelatedness of the physical, biological, and social with the emergence and direction of the creative and novel. Awareness of constructions, false divisions, and systems; privileging generalized ‘Die lebenswelt,’ or the place where experiential and conceptual knowledge are lived together. This is experienced in all creative artisanship and art, and in creative and skillful living generally. With this collaborative project, Wise hopes to bring focus to the emotionally charged topic that he considers to be an excellent example of free market capitalism; the black market of human trafficking. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
Proposed Referendum: Learn how to tell who is getting trafficked-call a hotline for help. Youth and Parents-learn about strategies to avoid predatory traffickers. Support businesses with fair labor practices.
Allyn has designed a series of postcards for distribution throughout the Port. For instance, one has a photograph of two maids, with text that asks: ‘Two Domestics…Which one is Trafficked?’ Other examples include: ‘Two teens prostituted…Which one is trafficked in the commercial sex trade? Two farm workers…Two toy factory workers…Which one is trafficked?’ The flip side states: ‘Learn to tell the difference,” and offers strategies for taking action.
Jerri Allyn Bio
Allyn is interested in civic engagement. The nature of her work moves between art settings, academia and targeted communities, providing a forum for the multiple voices with whom she collaborates. Allyn creates site-oriented, interactive, new genre installations and performance art events that become a part of public life, and build on connections between the art world, activist organizations and others through aligned interests. Her projects often include public programs that expand on scholarly and secular concerns. Feminist Art represents one of the lineages from the 70’s that have developed ‘performative interactions’ characterized by engagement, dialogue and social change.
A Remembrance / Honoring Those Lost to Trafficking – Public Program in relation to ‘temporary foundation memorial’ – (Sunday May 31 1:00pm)
Leah Laird will lead a remembrance ceremony, allowing participants to think about those who have been lost to human trafficking. There will be time for those present to share their thoughts, if desired.
Leah Laird Bio
A Universalist Minister, Laird was ordained in the Church of Christ in 2007 and is active in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is a second year PhD student at Claremont School of Theology, focusing on research in the psychological effects of translation on people of faith.
Background: Debating Through the Arts Events and Artist Team at the Model United Nations
Can you imagine including artists on the world stage at the UN, advocating for cultural participation in global affairs? Driven by this vision, in 2009 Jerri Allyn and Inez S. Bush, founded Debating Through the Arts, whose overall goal is to demonstrate the importance of artists’ contributions in identifying, articulating and addressing complex challenges we as a society face in the 21st century, such as human trafficking. Fine artists are making numerous contributions in a variety of places. Isn’t it time for participation in the UN?
Debating Through the Arts: Performance Art Events 1, 2, 3 and 4 (2009-2011) were daylong and afternoon-evening performative events, based on a Model United Nations (MUN) paradigm. Artists chose an issue and team; debated their view to an audience; caucused; collaboratively developed then presented “creative referendums” also known as “artistic solutions” (visual tableaus, movement dance, repetitive performance actions, sound/music responses, as well as text-based debates). The event culminated with audiences voting on their favorites.
MUN simulates activities at universities worldwide. Conferences enroll between 200-5000 inter/national participants. In January 2014, MUN, at California State University Long Beach, agreed to mentor the Artist Team (Allyn, Palma, Solo, Wise and Sarafina Rodriquez). The Team drafted position papers for assigned countries on human trafficking (the CSULB chosen topic) and studied procedures. The Artist Team was granted permission to include a 3-minute ‘creative referendum’ they developed; equally, they were warned that ‘dissenting activities’ could get them thrown out.
On March 1, 2014, the Artist Team entered the MUN Conference at CSULB. They successfully played a diplomatic negotiators’ game with 600 others, that included one member becoming a coveted referendum writer, and three others concluding the day on the winning regional team (based on continents worldwide). They did not get a chance to share their ‘creative referendums’ but did get to better understand how artists might interact with MUN.
Now the Team’s challenge is to be recognized as artists offering ‘artistic solutions’ or ‘creative resolutions’ in various media. Allyn is in dialogue with MUN staff who are excited about the idea of artists’ participation, and report there is a dormant Cultural Committee. Allyn continues to explore activating that Committee, and will begin to explore artists’ participation in UNICEF, the UN’s cultural arm.
In San Pedro, Allyn and collaborators are looking forward to focusing on one aspect of the Model UN paradigm – ‘creative referendums’ – with attention to how human trafficking effects this Port community within Los Angeles.
Statistics on Human Trafficking
Statistics are hard to pin down, and many sources agree that trafficking is estimated to be a 10-30 billion dollar black market industry that coerces 10-25 million people into forced labor or commercial sex annually. (Trafficking in Persons Reports, US State Department, 2014. Kevin Bales, Free the Slaves.)
Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, in The State of Human Trafficking in California (2012), reports that human trafficking is the world’s second most profitable criminal enterprise after drug trafficking, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking. 1,300 traffickers prosecuted in state; at least 700,000 trafficked within the US; and 14-17,500 foreigners trafficked into California each year.
The Polaris organization reports 244,000 youth trafficked in US; 38,600 runaways at risk for sex exploitation yearly; and 12-14 years old as the average age of entry into prostitution with life expectancy of 20 years old. Some of these girls – and boys – are literally prostituted to death.
The 2007 UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, is a 140 country and multi-stakeholder initiative that includes governments, business, academia, civil society and the media, who raise awareness and access resources.