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Creative Compassion Through Art

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Diane Oh/New University

The UCI campus chapter of the International Justice Mission (IJM) held an art auction to raise awareness and highlight current human trafficking and slavery issues on Tuesday, May 24. From 7 to 10 p.m., the event featured art from local artists and students that ranged from abstract paintings to live terrariums.

Attendees slowly made their way across the room to gaze at approximately 20 works of art. Prospective buyers were asked to place their name, phone number, email and bid on a card and place it in small gift bags at the foot of the artwork they intended to purchase. At the end of the night, IJM event coordinators contacted the highest bidder of each respective art piece.

To follow the theme of the event, most of the art featured images that related to human trafficking and slavery. A piece by Tammy Ngo titled “Fish Bowl” showed two people sitting on a couch, while fishes swam above them. Her art in conjunction with a quote, “In the end, we all swim in the same bowl,” highlights the feeling of obligation to caring about human trafficking that IJM wants to instill in students. To benefit the organization, 50-100 percent of artist proceeds went to IJM.

Jack Pan, a second-year earth and environmental sciences major and featured artist, describes himself as a “non-traditional artist.” Jack blends art and science to create self-sustaining terrariums – sealed ecosystems that contain the correct balance of plants, decomposers and water. When asked why he was selling his artwork, Jack replied “I had to move out and I decided, ‘hey, why don’t I just sell it?’” Although the materials and research for the terrariums were very costly, Jack set the asking price low because he recognizes the average student’s budget.

Other items for sale included T-shirts, raffle tickets, friendship bracelets and small purses. Light refreshments were also provided.

Most art pieces ranged in asking price from $10-40, with one by Mark Leysen set at $1,800. But as Riley made clear, as a chapter of IJM, the UCI student organization’s main goal is to bring the topics of human trafficking and slavery to the attention of college students.

IJM’s secretary, Riley Garrett, explained that the parent organization of IJM works by assembling “teams of lawyers and social workers who try to change laws and get laws enforced” that protect individuals throughout the world from human trafficking.

“Most countries have laws against human trafficking and slavery, but in a lot of countries the law enforcement doesn’t do anything about it,” Garrett said.

Recently, the parent organization of IJM was responsible for an operation in Chennai, India that freed more than 500 men, women and children from a forced-labor brick factory. Workers, as young as eight years old, were subject to 18-hour shifts and beatings by owners, while receiving none of the promised pay.

The UCI chapter of IJM wrapped up a successful year with the event, and now look forward to next year.