The big picture

An MSU Denver class helps illuminate a difficult issue.

By Brett McPherson

Publish Date: February 17, 2015


This is the static, center panel of "Celebration of Hope: A Decade of Transforming Lives." SEE how the outer panels animate.
Photos: Nick Delgago and Mark Hickcox


Art and advocacy intersected at MSU Denver in fall 2014, thanks to a partnership between the University’s Communication Design program and Street’s Hope, a Denver nonprofit that provides restorative services to women affected by sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry.

The organization reached out to the University requesting art for its 10th anniversary celebration in September. Professor Lisa Abendroth and nine Communication Design students teamed up with Street’s Hope program manager Peg Theobald to develop a piece that would help illustrate the issues Street’s Hope addresses.

“It became more than just a client-based work. It became a way to advocate for positive change,” said Abendroth. “The theme of light emerged as a way to communicate information to the audience.”

The resulting installation, “Celebration of Hope: A Decade of Transforming Lives,” was designed as an interactive, dynamic experience to inspire dialogue around the issue of sex slavery. The piece consists of small white light bulbs pegged into three adjoining black panels: The center panel features the word “hope,” which remains static, while the lights on the outer panels morph into varying shapes depicting statistics related to the sex trade. An animated spiral on the left panel represents the average life expectancy once a girl enters the sex industry(seven years). A bursting star on the right panel represents the frequency with which someone falls victim to human trafficking (every 30 seconds) and the number of women Street’s Hope has served since 2004 (146).

“It’s an abstract way to illuminate understanding,” said Abendroth of the installation.

“Celebration of Hope” was displayed for potential donors and others at the anniversary celebration for Street’s Hope alongside another design on which attendees left messages of hope for clients of the organization.

Abendroth nominated Theobald for a 2014 Applied Learning Center Community Partner Award because of the impact that working with Street’s Hope had on her class. She also plans to pursue partnerships with other organizations for future classes.

“If we can identify community partners that have significant needs, they can become advocates through which to address those issues,” said Abendroth.