New Mural Puts Spotlight On Human Trafficking

Textures of mosaic artwork is shown during an unveiling and cocktail social Friday, April 15, 2022 at Rethreaded's Delores Barr Weaver Campus of Hope in Jacksonville, Fla. The new art installation, Reclaiming the Light: A Survivor's Journey, includes murals and mosaics drawing attention to human trafficking. It was co-designed by artists Nico and RouxArt. (Corey Perrine/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
Textures of mosaic artwork is shown during an unveiling and cocktail social Friday, April 15, 2022 at Rethreaded's Delores Barr Weaver Campus of Hope in Jacksonville, Fla. The new art installation, Reclaiming the Light: A Survivor's Journey, includes murals and mosaics drawing attention to human trafficking. It was co-designed by artists Nico and RouxArt. (Corey Perrine/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — You need to get up close to find the hidden details in “Reclaiming the Light,” the new mural unveiled last week at the Rethreaded campus in Springfield.

The mural, which features spray-paint work by Nicole “Nico” Holderbaum and tile mosaics by Kate Garcia Rouh and Kenny Rouh of Jacksonville’s RouxArt, tells the story of a survivor’s path to healing from human trafficking.

It’s on a large wall at the edge of Rethreaded’s Delores Barr Weaver Campus of Hope on 9th Street in Springfield. Images of birds and flowers and hearts and caring faces cover the wall right near the entrance to the Rethreaded campus. Look closer and you’ll find words of inspiration, a ladybug, a couple of pea pods and pieces of broken dishes.

It’s officially the First Lady Molly Curry Educational Art Legacy Project, organized by the wife of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as a gift to the community. At a public unveiling of the project last week, she said it is a resource to show the Jacksonville community how to spot human trafficking and do something to stop it. “This art serves as a beacon of hope for survivors,” she said.

The mural is available for public viewing whenever the Rethreaded Freedom Market gift shop is open, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the project by downloading a brochure at rethreaded.com/mollycurrylegacyproject.

The shop sells handmade scarves, dog toys, key fobs and other items made by women rescued from human trafficking and the sex-trade industry. Nearly 80 survivors of human trafficking have been employed at Rethreaded since 2012.

The mural project has been in the works for nearly a year. Holderbaum and the Rouhs held meetings over Zoom with Rethreaded staff to come up with the design and color scheme.

“We had a really special workshop/meeting with some of the survivors that work at Rethreaded where they each created their own art piece based on their personal experiences.” Holderbaum said. “That was the starting point for our conceptualization. After that, Kate and I worked together to develop a design that would properly represent the survivor’s journey.”

The mosaic tiles went up first, Kenny Rouh said. The original plan was to apply them directly to the cinder-block wall, but the surface was uneven so the tiles were applied to wooden backboards in the RouxArt studio, then attached to the wall with 225 concrete anchors. It’s actually on two walls, one about 10 feet tall that marks the boundary of the Rethreaded campus, the other belonging to a warehouse next door.

Rouh said the mural should last a very long time. “That wall will come down before the mosaic does,” he said.

He estimated that there are 15,000-20,000 tiles in the mosaic. Once the mosaic was installed, it was covered with clear plastic to allow Holderbaum to do her thing.

She said it took her about two weeks to complete the mural. “The biggest challenge was the weather,” she said. “We battled the rain, and therefore the project did take a little bit longer to complete.”

Kate Rouh said there is symbolism all over the piece. It starts at the entrance to the campus with a mirrored cage and a bird escaping to freedom. “You can put yourself in the shoes of a survivor when you look into this cage,” she said.

The mural continues around the corner to continue the journey of a survivor, concluding with a large, smiling woman wrapped in one of Rethreaded’s signature grace scarves. A special edition of the grace scarf using the colors of the mural is available in the Rethreaded store for $35.

Holderbaum said she didn’t have to be asked twice to get involved.

“It has always been a huge dream and goal to work with Rethreaded,” she said. “Human trafficking is a heartbreaking issue in our communities, and being able to contribute something that helps raise awareness means a lot to me. It is exciting to see so much attention being brought to the issue, and I hope this leads to more support for the diverse group of women that go through this challenging experience in the city of Jacksonville.”

About Rethreaded

Kristin Keen founded Rethreaded more than a decade ago to help women caught up in the sex trade and human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline says 738 cases of human trafficking were reported in Florida in 2020. More than 140 of those cases involved minors.

Rethreaded moved into its new campus, housed in a former rail depot and auction warehouse, in November. Keen said the new facility will allow Rethreaded to hire more survivors than it has in the past. Her goal is to help 500 survivors by 2033.

Her immediate goal is to get as many people as possible to take a one-hour online course from the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking. The course teaches people to spot the signs of human trafficking and what to do about it.