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Houston artist Anat Ronen paints a mini mural on a traffic signal control box at Moody Park. (Photo by Alex Barber)
Houston City Council member Karla Cisneros, a longtime fan of the city’s mini mural program, recently came up with a way to enlarge a mural’s purpose by combatting a city scourge – human trafficking.Four new “Mini Murals” on traffic signal control cabinets in Cisneros’ District H aim to bringing human trafficking prevention and awareness to Northside Houston, just in time for January’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month.Cisneros said she is not aware of any other cities or locations that have used mini murals this way.“I got the idea from witnessing first-hand how successful the mini mural program has been in brightening up our streetscapes and seeing the positive effect they have on people who pass them,” Cisneros said. “It occurred to me that if we identified problematic locations where human trafficking or prostitution might be an issue, that the mini murals could not only lift spirits and inspire hope, but they could also provide easy access to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and that calling that number for help could be life-changing.”The hotline number, 888-373-7888, is written on signals at four different locations – Airline Drive at Crosstimbers Street, Airline at Cavalcade Street, Jensen Drive at Crosstimbers and at Moody Park.Cisneros said the four sites in District H were primarily identified by her staff through calls from constituents who had witnessed or were concerned about prostitution or other illegal activity at those locations.“We noted that calls to 311 also backed up what we were hearing from the community,” she said. “We vetted the list through the Mayor’s Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, and they concurred with the selected locations. I felt that if these were areas where victims of human trafficking might pass through, it could be a good place to reach out and offer some additional help.”Anat Ronen, who became a professional artist in her late 30s after emigrating from Israel, said a design from her existing portfolio was selected for the mural project. Ronen’s mural is at Moody Park.“They chose the design that spoke to them,” Ronen said of the window looking into a great forest, which she originally envisioned as a respite from more urban surroundings. “I suppose it resonated, an escape into a different world.”Ronen was involved in the Mini Mural program at its start in 2015. A program of UP Art Studio, which commissions the artists and manages the projects, there are now hundreds of murals across the city.Each mural, which costs about $2,500 to create, was funded by Cisneros’ office with additional support from Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence.The other participating artists are Alex “Zú” Arzú and Renee Victor.Ronen said it took her a full day to complete the project and that as with other murals, there was a fair bit of interaction with pedestrians in the area.“It is always heartwarming to visit with passersby,” she said. “It was also interesting to get to paint on the METRO line. I thought about potential victims maybe traveling the line and seeing the number to call.”To learn more about human trafficking and the response from the mayor’s office, visit humantraffickinghouston.org.
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