ArtServe Unveils Human Trafficking Prevention-Themed Art Installation

A happenstance encounter years ago with a tossed-aside newspaper became both a learning experience and a metaphor for South Florida-based artist Rhona Rubio, whose massive interactive installation provided both the focal point and the impetus for a free work-shop on how to stop human trafficking at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale. “Seeing an article about human trafficking in the newspaper that day was the first time I had ever heard about the issue,” Rubio said. Nearly a decade later, she couldn’t stop thinking about those who were suffering and decided to volunteer with an international nonprofit dedicated to helping women at risk. But she knew she needed to do more. Inspired by her artwork, ArtServe’s free workshop was a collaboration between ArtServe and A21, one of the largest organizations in the world fighting human trafficking. During the workshop educators and families learned how to create Child Trafficking-Free Zones in schools and communities. Entitled “Stories,” Rubio’s creation, a dark, sprawling interlaced, intricate network of twisted metal and human faces painted on various textured recycled fabrics stretched tight across vise-like frames, was unveiled during the workshop and enabled viewers to actually participate by bringing their own piece of cloth to fasten onto pre-made links encircling the structure. “I wanted to create a way that people could relate to the fact that we all have our own personal stories of suffering,” Rubio said. “By attaching their own symbolic piece of cloth to the artwork, their story can become one with those of human trafficking victims, giving us all a way to open up and listen to one another. Our stories of pain and silence have the power to connect us.” “Stories” will be displayed at ArtServe in conjunction with the award-winning non-profit’s current “Memories and Revolutions” exhibition that runs through September 23. “Hidden in plain sight, human trafficking tears at the social fabric of nations, economies and, on the granular level, in schools and other parts of our community,” ArtServe curator Sophie Bonet explained in reference to the artwork’s use of fabric.