Art exhibit educates about human trafficking

Local venue Cultivate 7twelve collaborated with UnBound, a Waco-based national human trafficking prevention organization to organize an art exhibit to raise funds for UnBound. The exhibit features pieces from local artists, each piece related to human trafficking. Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

Throughout October, Cultivate 7twelve art gallery will be home to an exhibit called “UnBound Art.” The exhibition is a joint effort between Cultivate 7twelve and UnBound, a Waco-based national human trafficking prevention organization. The art installation is centered on “breakthrough, strength, courage and potential for freedom,” according to the Cultivate 7twelve website. Guests are invited to walk through the exhibition for free to view the art and learn more about human trafficking.

“I love this exhibit,” Cultivate 7twelve co-founder Rebekah Hagman said. “I think the problem can be so overwhelming that you can feel like you can’t take action, and so a big part of their [UnBound’s] empowering message is that there is hope. That we can participate and, if we are aware and we all care, there can be change.”

Hagman said that local Waco artist Carrie Stout came to her last year and expressed interest in creating this exhibit and supporting UnBound. After solidifying their vision for the project, the pair planned an event in March at the Waco Barndominium where local artists congregated to hear from UnBound’s national director, Susan Peters, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara and Detective Joseph Scaramucci on the issue of human trafficking. The term “human trafficking” encompasses both sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

“They were inspired,” Hagman said. “They were super inspired. So the prompt for this side, the sense that even in darkness we can rise. The artists got to work, and, just six months later, the artists brought their finished pieces together to tell survivor stories.”

Susan Peters attended the exhibition for the opening night on Oct. 5 and was blown away by the creativity and passion demonstrated through the project.

“I was surprised how emotional I got seeing them [the art installations],” Peters said. “Some of them it was sad, but other parts were very moving and uplifting.”

Hagman said that the vision of the show was to entice people to the exhibit with dynamic art and inform them as they go throughout the visit so guests leave with a greater understanding of the issue of human trafficking.

“That way, people can digest a really heavy topic in kind of bite-sized pieces,” Hagman said.

As a centerpiece of the exhibit, Stout and Hagman helped create a massive wooden balance, with two trays, one on either side.

“The balance has keys on one side, and, as people go through the show, we’re asking them to take a key and place it on the other side, so that over the course of the month as people go through the show and experience a higher level off awareness and care for what’s going on around them, we’ll actually be able to watch the balance slowly tip and see change right here,” Hagman said.

This interactive component, along with the diverse styles of fine art and an informative film made by Cultivate 7twelve, are all aimed at raising awareness and funds for UnBound. Throughout the run of the exhibition, there will be multiple events. On Oct. 17, there will be a training at the gallery from 7 to 8:30 p.m. where the public can learn more about how to recognize signs of human trafficking around them and learn more about the effects of human trafficking as a whole. On Oct. 18, Cultivate 7twelve is holding a yoga night to raise funds for UnBound, and on Oct. 26 there will be a book reading of “Surviving the Life” featuring author Julia Walsh, her experiences as a sex trafficking victim and her journey to freedom. To close out the exhibit, Cultivate is hosting a night featuring local individuals, churches and agencies that are working to create an environment of safety for victims in Waco.

“This was a really important thing for us to do,” Hagman said. “When we started our business, we thought about how we wanted to make sure that at least once a year we were partnering with a nonprofit and all the proceeds from the show go back to the organization and a small part to the artists,” Hagman said. “We really are here to cultivate the culture of Waco, and so this is a huge part of sowing the culture. We’re just thrilled to be working with UnBound on this project, we think they’re incredible.”

For more information about “UnBound Art,” go Cultivate 7twelve’s website, and to get involved with UnBound itself, vist their websit at