One of the first things that Antoinette said to me when I met her at the Exile Poster Project open house Tuesday in the Imago Art Space was “Art saved my life.” I met Antoinette while she was examining the red poster with
a white shadow image of a girl in pigtails, and what looked like chains fallen to the ground. Antoinette was reading the words that explained what the work represented. All of the 30 or so posters on display were created specifically for the Exile Poster event to bring light to the problem of child sex trafficking in Portland.
I asked Antoinette if she attended Imago Dei or knew Martin French, the artist who dreamed up the Exile Poster Project. She said no to both questions. Antoinette works for City of Portland, in mayor Sam Adams’ office; she was invited by
Ken Weigel, a pastor at Imago Dei, to attend the event.
She shared with me her story of the importance of art in her life, and that she is very spiritual and sees the spiritual side of art. Antoinette grew up in Alabama and eventually made her way to Oregon. She had an art teacher who mentored her and guided her during important years in her life. Antoinette shared with me that her art teacher helped her to appreciate art and inspired her to create art. The artist mentored Antoinette for years, teaching her the value of work, and the importance of overcoming circumstances.
As I listened to Antoinette share her story, and her acknowledging that art saved her, I thought about the Exile Poster project and how, when you boil it down, that is in essence the vision behind the project. It’s recognizing the power of art, the power of the poster in this case, to draw attention to an injustice, which will prayerfully inspire people who view the art to do something about the injustice. In the case of this year’s Exile Poster Project, to draw attention to an issue that is destroying the lives of girls caught in the trap of sex trafficking. And, as people view the posters, the hope is that they would sense a call to action, to help stop the injustice and oppression of these girls.
And, by the grace of God, maybe it will even save another life.