The ominous gray clouds and the brisk autumn air were starkly juxtaposed with the strikingly bright and colorful exterior walls of the Freedom Café on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The crisp yellow and orange leaves blew past the signature murals that read “Humility, Justice and Kindness.” These mantras reflect the Freedom Café’s goal as a nonprofit organization, which is to raise awareness for human trafficking and exploitation.
“Human trafficking is there. We don’t see it, but it’s there,” Freedom Café Marketing Intern Richard Ouch said.
“From the people who work in the kitchens of restaurants or people that do construction work, it’s there,” Ouch said. “[We’re] not only raising awareness, but at the same time…raising enough money to donate to some of the organizations that do help and fight against human trafficking.”
The Freedom Café hosts many events, like the popular Open Mic Night, to enlighten local community members on the social issues and dangers surrounding human trafficking. One of their most recent projects is an art challenge entitled, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” which invites artists to display their talent through art pieces that highlight the reality of human trafficking and what can be done to end it.
The exhibit is to be presented next month at 3S Artspace, but the Freedom Café will accept submissions until Nov. 4. According to Ouch, the submissions can be “in any medium” as long as it’s in a 2D format (paint, photography, etc.).
“We encourage the artists to do whatever they want,” Ouch said. “But we want to be able to hang it up in a larger piece.”
With the collective help of the Thompson School Community Leadership Program (TSCLP), 3S Artspace and the Freedom Café, the artwork will be demonstrated on the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN GIFT Box), which is a large open piece of public walk-in art that is approximately 10-by-8 feet. The display will be a reflection of the reality of human trafficking, which is that people are promised money and education, and then become trapped victims of human trafficking.
“On the outside of [the UN GIFT Box], we will have all of the promises that say, ‘Come here for a better future,’ and once you go inside, we have pictures and stories from victims of human trafficking,” Ouch said. “The art is concentrating on the bleakness of human trafficking and how dark it can be.”
It is the second year that the Freedom Café and TSCLP have collaborated to use the UN GIFT Box. In April 2015, the UN GIFT Box was displayed outside the Dimond Library.
UN GIFT Box President and Program Director Bryan Bessette described the box showcase as an “opportunity” for artists to interact with and communicate the message of human trafficking in a way that’s “accessible” to the community.
The selected artwork from this art challenge will not only be in 3S, but also will be exhibited inside the Freedom Café. Along with the submissions, one of the featured artists will be UNH alum Kim Massaro.
“[Massaro] is a great artist and her work will be a great addition,” Bassette said. “It also gives her a chance to have gallery space…not as an entry but as an element to the piece.”
Ouch said he believes that the artwork will be judged by a group of people from the Freedom Café development team. They will judge the work based on its ability to represent human trafficking and if it fits the criteria. The reward for the Freedom Café has yet to be determined, but Ouch said that he is “in the process of talking to Michael’s and other art supply stores” for gift cards to be given to the selected artists.
Submissions for the art challenge can be emailed to the Freedom Café (@[email protected]fe.org) as high quality JPG or PDF. The “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibition will be displayed at 3S Artspace from Thursday, Nov. 17 to Sunday, Nov. 20.