Artist and activist Molly Gochman has duplicated the United States-Mexico border in “Border US-MX, 2018, International Airport Houston," a 600-foot trench at Bush Intercontinental Airport filled with red sand.
Artist and activist Molly Gochman has duplicated the United States-Mexico border in “Border US-MX, 2018, International Airport Houston," a 600-foot trench at Bush Intercontinental Airport filled with red sand.
Photo courtesy of Red Sand Project

Artist Draws a Line in the Sand at IAH Against Human Trafficking

When people and individuals start being described as "other" or "them," that's when artist/activist Molly Gochman steps up to the plate with her massive trenches — about three feet wide and hundreds of feet long — filled with red sand in the shape of international borders.

"When you think of any people as less than, they are less likely to be protected with human rights. It's more likely for them to be exploited," explains Gochman, who launched the Red Sand Project in 2014 to draw awareness to human trafficking and exploitation. "When we see vulnerabilities and when we see people being exploited, our responsibility as ethical humans is to welcome them and give them human sanctuary, in my opinion."

Sand is an affordable enough medium, and its practicality for large-scale installations has allowed Gochman's concept to be carried through into every state in the United States as well as in 70 countries around the world. Her next project, “Border US-MX, 2018, International Airport Houston,” opens at Bush Intercontinental Airport on October 20 and runs through January, 2019.

The Red Sand Project's installations and events have taken place in all 50 of the United States, and in more than 70 countries around the world.
The Red Sand Project's installations and events have taken place in all 50 of the United States, and in more than 70 countries around the world.
Rendering courtesy of Red Sand Project

At 600 feet in length, it's large enough to be visible from the air as well as to passersby. Supplementing the exhibit are installations inside the airport. Though they're still working out the details with airport security, these pieces should look like borders from around the world "etched" onto the windows with a vinyl product and paired with words like freedom, movement and migration.

"Refugees are more likely to be exploited and trafficked than others," says Gochman, who says statistics show that philanthropists send more money to faraway countries than to borders closer to home.

"Border US-MX, 2018" is being presented in Houston in collaboration with Children at Risk, a leader in the fight against human trafficking with offices in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth. We checked in with Children at Risk to learn more about the problem of human trafficking.

According to Children at Risk:
- A study by the University of Texas Austin Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault reported that an estimated 79,000 minor and youth victims of sex trafficking are here in Texas.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that one in five endangered runaways are likely sex trafficking victims. Texas has more than 10,000 runaways annually.
- The majority of prostituted individuals entered into a life of prostitution as minors when they were between 12 and 14 years of age. By law, the prostitution of children is sex trafficking.


There's an opening reception, hosted by local author, speaker and philanthropist Curry Glassell, from noon to 2 p.m. October 19 at the Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental, 18700 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Gochman will be on hand to discuss the Red Sand Project and visitors will be able to tour the earthwork.

For information about the Red Sand Project, visit redsandproject.org. For information about Children at Risk, visit childrenatrisk.org.

Glassell, along with Jason Fuller, also are hosting a gala titled, "The Art of Stopping Human Trafficking," featuring auction and commission pieces by Gochman as well as by participating artists Rania Daniel, David Graeve, Terrell James, Sharon Kopriva, Layla Love, Angelbert Metoyer, Cruz Ortiz, McKay Otto and Weihong.  Funds raised will go towards provisions for the victims, as well as expanding the legislative arm of Children at Risk. The event is scheduled for 7-10 p.m. October 25 at The Wynden, 1025 South Post Oak Lane. For information visit october252018.com.

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