Alumna presents project on campus

Alumna Molly Gochman spoke about her Red Sand Project in the Guilford College Art Gallery in Hege Library on Monday, Nov.14.

The global art project is designed to bring awareness to human trafficking and slavery. Thirty-six million people are enslaved worldwide, and there are 60,000 victims in the United States today according to Gochman’s statement of intent and the Free the Slaves organization.

Gochman created kits with pouches of red sand, which can be used to fill in cracks on the streets or sidewalks, symbolizing vulnerabilities that exist all around us.

She chose red to make the sand stand out against the concrete and as the color of urgency. The red color was also an inspiration from artist Barbara Kruger whose images contain black and  grey backgrounds with bright red writings.

President Jane Fernandes introduced Gochman and spoke about her art and activism. Fernandes also honored Gochman with the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Free red sand kits in small brown canvas bags were placed on the chairs for audience members.

Gochman showed her early art work and explained how it led to her Red Sand Project. The project has been done in 70 countries and all 50 states.

She also explained how the project offers people an outlet to get involved and make a difference by sharing the project and information on human trafficking.

“Art is a way to get the discussion started,” said Gochman.

The project also includes a few survivors of human trafficking.

“I wanted to make sure that I did not take anything away from the survivors,” said Gochman. “It was important to me that they were okay with me advocating as someone who was not a victim.

“Some survivors have actually taken the project and put their sand in front of the houses or places where they were taken.”

The Red Sand Project includes three steps. A participant spreads the red sand in cracks, then takes a picture and uploads it to social media with the hashtag #redsandproject. Gochman hopes to end modern day slavery by expanding the discussion and awareness about human trafficking.

Gochman spoke about her desire to make a difference with her project and involve more people. Early College senior Regan Murphy expressed appreciation for Gochman’s work.

“I think the Red Sand Project is interesting because it takes a serious issue and pairs it with an activity that is eye-catching and that everyone can do,” said Murphy. “The fact that the project doesn’t exploit the survivors is also another aspect that makes the project even better.”

There was time for questions from the audience after Gochman’s talk. An audience member asked how she chooses where the project will go.

“I don’t choose,” said Gochman. “Most of the time people reach out to me and ask me to come to them and I do.”

Another audience member asked where she gets the red sand.

“I get the sand from Canada where my husband is from,” said Gochman. “It is dyed using an all-natural dye. I wanted to make sure we are using something safe for the Earth.”

The red sand is crushed feldspar rocks that has natural and organic ingredients. It is safe and non-toxic. The sand does not stain and is eco-friendly and will wash away when it rains.

The Red Sand Project has over 1,900 followers on Instagram and thousands of hashtags supporting the global art project, including actor Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher used the hashtag and red sand to share the first picture of his baby girl Wyatt Isabelle Kutcher on Instagram. Many people have been sharing their involvement in the project on social media.

“I am really excited about the Red Sand Project,” said Kathryn Shields, associate professor of art history and chair of the art department. “It gives students and other interested people a model for how powerful socially engaged art can be.

“Raising awareness and starting difficult conversations are among the great advantages art provides to culture.”

The participatory project falls right into place with Guilford College’s social justice values and combines art with activism. The kits for the project have been requested from all types of diverse groups and there is a feedback form to express the type of responses experienced.

Gochman’s visit took place during Peace Week for Guilford College, honoring human rights, philanthropy and tolerance for all people. Gochman spent time speaking with international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney the day before her visit. Gochman’s project was part of the Bryan Series that hosted Clooney.

Students who want to make a difference can do so by requesting the kits from Gochman’s site and begin to help fill in the holes, cracks and spaces around us on the streets. Lend your voice to the Red Sand Project. Help fight to end human trafficking and slavery.

Keep an eye out for the red sand.

For more information, visit Gochman’s website.

http://mollygochman.com/performanceinstallation red-sand-project/