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The Impact of Art and the Power of Collaboration

paintings from freedom 58 art event

Last month, Love Justice co-hosted an art event in Colorado in partnership with Freedom 58, The Village Workspace, Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko, and the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation. The exhibition, “Faces of Freedom: Voices Calling for an End to Modern-Day Slavery,” featured roughly 100 oil paintings from artists all over the country depicting the dignity, honor, and beauty of human trafficking survivors. 

Freedom 58

bob and libby swenson

Bob and Libby Swenson founded Freedom 58 in 2009 after having their hearts broken for the injustice of human trafficking and wanting to make a difference. 

One day while at an art festival in Beaver Creek, Colorado, the Swensons saw artist Judith Dickinson painting a portrait of a woman from Rwanda. Talking with her, they learned that she and her husband had a ministry supporting widows in Rwanda, and she used her skills to tell their stories with art. Bob Swenson thought, What if we used art to tell the stories of human trafficking survivors? Dickinson volunteered to do their first painting.

The Swensons then reached out to artists across the country with a vision statement to see if they would want to contribute. 

people looking at art exhibit

“I don’t think we realized how overwhelmingly interested artists would be in doing this. We were getting paintings almost every day in the mail from artists who wanted their art to make a difference in the world,” said Libby Swenson. 

Today, the collection has about 250 oil paintings and features work from over 200 artists, including Craig Tennant, Johanna Spinks, Phil Ramsey, Jami Nix Rahn, Don Sahli, and Michele Rushworth. 

“We believe artists have a unique ability to observe people deeply and create dignity, hope, and beauty amidst the brokenness of our world. Through the Faces of Freedom art exhibit, artists utilize their talents to bring light to the true stories behind the scourge of slavery and violent oppression,” said Bob Swenson. 

Freedom 58 partners with Love Justice and other anti-trafficking organizations to raise awareness and funds to fight human trafficking. 


Human trafficking in your community

The Impact of Art event had over 100 attendees from a multitude of spheres—government, law enforcement, nonprofits, and art enthusiasts joined together to learn about human trafficking and celebrate the stories of freedom represented in the paintings.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown and District Attorney John Kellner talked about how human trafficking happens even here in the U.S. in Colorado. 

Sheriff Brown and John Kellner sharing about human trafficking at art event

“Over 400 people in the Denver metro area have been intercepted and the amount of work that goes into that on a daily basis is almost overwhelming. The average age of people [minors] we intercept here in Colorado is young, shockingly young—13 years old,” said Brown.

Kellner shared about a collaborative operation called Operation Cross Country that happens every year when state and federal task force members come together and gather all the information they can on missing and at-risk children on the streets.


“On that one weekend, everybody drops everything they do, and they try to find those kids,” he said. 

When Kellner participated in this operation in 2022, they recovered 27 missing children, 11 of whom were trafficking victims, as well as 11 adult trafficking victims. 

“As a mayor, you’re not going to walk around telling everybody, ‘There’s human trafficking going on in your community.’ But guess what—there’s human trafficking going on in your community,” said Mayor Piko.


A voice for those silenced by their circumstances

Jami Nix Rahn, one of the artists whose work is featured in the collection, shared about the inspiration for her paintings and expressed gratitude for being able to use her skills and talents in the fight against human trafficking. 

“In these paintings, my aim was to offer a voice to those silenced by their circumstances. These visual narratives serve as a potent reminder that art possesses the unique ability to give voice to the voiceless, providing a platform for their stories to be seen and heard,” she said.

Read the story of the girl in the stiletto heels, which inspired Rahn's paintings (two of which are featured in the cover photo of this article). 


Working together for greater impact

Mayor Stephanie Piko at art exhibit event to fight human trafficking

Sponsors for the event included Colorado Music Institute who supplied live music for the event and Lunch Wired; Get Plattered; Davidsons Beer, Wine & Spirits; and E-Corp, Inc. who supplied food and beverages. Thank you sponsors for your support!

This event served as a strong reminder of how important and powerful collaboration is as we continue to work towards ending human trafficking. Strong partnerships between NGOs, government, law enforcement, local businesses, churches, survivors, and the general public with each person’s unique skills and talents—these connections have the power to make a real difference in this fight!


So we want to encourage you to think creatively. How can you leverage YOUR skills and talents to make a difference? We welcome partnerships and collaboration ideas. Everyone has a part to play! Check out our fundraising page for some unique ways that others have contributed in the past. 

If you live in the greater Denver area and would like to view the art, or if you are an artist and want to contribute to the collection, contact Libby Swenson at lswenson@lovejustice.ngo. 


Make a difference


*All data and statistics current at the date and time of publishing. Names changed and some specific locations excluded for privacy and security purposes. Photos (except the photo of Bob and Libby Swenson) by Nikki Brooker Photography.


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