Profile: Buy Art Not People
May 19 marks the third event for Buy Art Not People, a Chicago-based organization that raises awareness about human trafficking.
Buy Art Not People first formed at Destination Church in Wrigleyville to engage artists in ministry. The group wanted to hold an event to raise money for the church, but a pastor suggested raising money for a charity instead. The group landed on Not For Sale, a national organization that works to end human trafficking in a variety of ways. BANP’s first event, held in December 2010, was located at the Painted Door, a church and gallery space in Ukrainian Village. The main event was a silent auction featuring 20 artists, including Elizabeth Andrews, who is now the director of BANP. At the time, she was new to the city and was invited to a pastor’s birthday party: “I ended up meeting the co-founders of Buy Art Not People at that party. They found out I was an artist [and] asked me to contribute some work.”
Elizabeth was then invited to planning meetings for the second BANP event, held in July of 2011. This time artists were asked to submit 6×6 panels for the show; every person who bought a ticket could choose a panel to take home with them. There were over 180 pieces submitted by 84 artists at the Black Cloud Gallery in Pilsen. The proceeds from the ticket sales went to the Salvation Army’s PROMISE program. PROMISE works with hospitals, law enforcement, and social workers in Chicago, as well as community members, to train them on how to find and properly report signs of trafficking and exploitation. PROMISE also provides housing for human trafficking victims through Anne’s House.
One of the goals of Buy Art Not People is to raise awareness about human trafficking in various communities by having events in different parts of the city. In fact, BANP’s objective can be narrowed down to a simple mission statement: art, awareness, action. The ‘art’ acts as a way to connect to people and communities and hopefully lead to the ‘awareness’ and ‘action’ aspects of Buy Art Not People. Awareness serves the purpose of making artists and enthusiasts think about what message their art is portraying. Subsequently, the ‘action’ gives people the tools to be able to create change. They can do this through simply donating their artwork, supporting local organizations, or taking a more hands-on approach within programs such as PROMISE.
“What’s awareness worth unless there’s action behind it?” Elizabeth asks, and that’s the perspective the small leadership team of eight have on human trafficking. They facilitate events in the hopes that someone might walk away motivated to make a change in their neighborhood. The volunteers meet about twice a month to talk about upcoming events and focus on what still needs to be done. The group is well-rounded, as it includes artists and non-artists alike, all of whom are passionate about raising awareness for the human trafficking that is occurring in Chicago. As of now, they don’t have a space of their own nor any funding for staff or administrative support, but both are future goals for BANP. Longer-term goals include the opportunity to interact with victims, both locally and overseas, through workshops and art therapy. But for now, knowing they are helping support local programs is enough.
Elizabeth describes Buy Art Not People as openly faith-based, but said that the group tries to stay neutral to be able to connect with various groups, not just Christian ones. She also said BANP does look for opportunities to share the Gospel one-on-one, but also relies on its actions to convey God’s love to people.
The upcoming May event will try to do just that. The show will not only feature artists from all over the city, but also work from participants in the PROMISE program, who are former victims of human trafficking themselves. The event will focus on themes of home, recovery, sanctuary and transformation. It will be held May 19 at Flourish Studios in the Lakeview neighborhood and proceeds from ticket and art sales will be given to the PROMISE program.
When asked what she would say to people who don’t know that human trafficking exists in Chicago area, Elizabeth said, “I would say learn about it. I would say look for it. Because it’s right here. It’s where you least expect it … It’s seriously in our backyards. And I would just say … learn about how you can change your daily routine … your language … And I do think there is something that everybody can be doing.”
Use the links below to learn more about …