Sustainable Materials and Social Action
In 2016, with the help of Winthrop University's Political Science and Art departments, plus 200 community volunteers, I undertook the design of twenty-one, unique "help" symbols. The symbols were designed and recognition-tested by volunteers, to be used as hand-written calls for help by anyone needing to anonymously report a human trafficking crime or sexual assault. As I thought about how the public might interact with this difficult subject and make sense of using the symbols, I decided that a fun, interactive exhibition was the way to go. Using a material that was totally non-violent and sustainable seemed appropriate too, and wool from sheep raised in small, boutique farms became the ideal material for the sculptures. The project took three years to complete.
Each symbol was designed and tested for recognition by 200 volunteers through an interactive Qualtrics, polling initiative licensed by Winthrop University. In order to be included in "the Help Code", the image needed to have agreement with 70% or more viewers as representing a perpetrator's crime, occupation and gender.
Do any of us set out to be a hero? Circumstances often create heroes. In the case of human trafficking and sexual assault, stepping up to reveal perpetrators often is a dangerous task. These individuals inadvertently found themselves in circumstances where they chose to be heroic.
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