The Armory Art Center works with the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches to provide therapeutic art classes to teenaged girls who have been sexually exploited, through its The Art of the Phoenix program.
Named after the mythical phoenix because of its regenerative powers, the year-round program began in the fall 2015. Twelve to 15 girls meet weekly for an hour and a half with an Armory art therapist, a counselor and sometimes another art teacher, depending on the discipline.
Each eight-week session focuses on a different discipline and ends with the production of an artwork. The classes are planned around themes and issues that students deal with in therapy.
The coalition, which is made up of agencies, citizens and non-provider organizations that work to reduce human trafficking, connects the Armory with the girls. The Art of the Phoenix is the group’s first survivor support program.
The Armory underwrites all expenses through donations and sponsorships. Each session costs between $1,800 and $2,000.
One of the principal sources of support is the new The Art of the Phoenix Luncheon: Hope and Healing through Art, scheduled at noon Tuesday at Club Colette, 215 Peruvian Ave.
“It is the Armory’s mission to inspire, create and experience art,” Executive Director Tom Pearson said. “With the work done here, we improve the quality of life for individuals and our community.”
The board hopes to expand the program to serve all girls in need of its services, he said.
The speaker will be Bonnie Jo Daniels, project director for Hope for Freedom and the Armory’s point person for The Art of the Phoenix.
“Trafficking can be both sex or labor trafficking,” she said. “Unfortunately, human trafficking continues to rise nationwide and especially here in South Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families counted nearly 1,900 reports of human trafficking statewide in 2016, a 54 percent increase from the previous year.”
Florida ranked third in the nation, behind California and Texas, in the number of reported cases in 2016, according to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that tracks the number of calls to the national trafficking hotline.
Sunny beaches, tourism and agriculture make Palm Beach County attractive to human traffickers, Daniels said.
The partners measure The Art of the Phoenix’s effectiveness by observing its results.
“Case managers, social workers and community advocates see the progress of healing when working directly with the survivors on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Healing the emotions from trauma aids academic performance and enhances social skills.”