UNC graduate Oona Lewis’ passion for art began when she was only a child.
Now, she is using her artistic talents to draw awareness to the children who may need it most – victims of Nepali human trafficking.
Lewis will present “Small World,” her benefit art exhibition, at Vecino Brewing Co. located at 300 E. Main St., Suite C, in Carrboro. The exhibit will run from July 9 through Aug. 29, with an opening reception on Friday, July 16 at 6 p.m.
All event proceeds will be donated to two anti-sex trafficking organizations – The Apple of God’s Eyes, a residential recovery center for trafficking victims, and the Hasta Memorial School, a school for children who have a high risk of being trafficked.
“Small World” will feature a series of paintings inspired by Lewis’ recent trip to Nepal, she said. The exhibit will also showcase some of Lewis’ multidimensional work.
Lewis graduated from UNC in 1980 with a degree from the School of Journalism and a second emphasis in studio art. Though she has always been drawn to art, her love for painting was born after the birth of her first child, she said.
“While I was home with a baby, I decided that I must paint,” Lewis said. “There was something obviously missing in my life.”
Lewis said she began searching for a space to establish an art studio to find that missing piece. Now, Lewis is a resident artist of The Barnes Corner Gallery and co-owner of ArtVentures, located in Wilson.
Jean Haas, a longtime friend of Lewis’, said Lewis demonstrates a “diverse talent” when painting and believes her work is unique.
“She doesn’t box herself into anything,” Haas said. “Everything she does is wonderful.”
While in Nepal, Lewis said she was fascinated with painting the country's beauty – but she also became aware of its struggles.
“While we were there, I came across a woman sitting at a weaving loom,” Lewis said. “She had been rescued from trafficking and had a very difficult life. So, I got very interested in this problem.”
Lewis said she was also motivated to get involved after reading “Standing in the Way” by Anjali Tamang, a survivor of human trafficking who once resided at The Apple of God’s Eyes.
Tamang is now raising funds to open the Hasta Memorial School. Reading Tamang’s story made Lewis recognize how pervasive the issue really is, she said.
Pegi Barnes-Sharp, business partner and friend of Lewis’, said she was not surprised to hear about the exhibit's goal.
“I know her heart,” Barnes-Sharp said. “If she saw a need and was moved by it, then she stepped up to it.”
Lewis said she hopes her event will not only help fund the cause, but it also will create awareness and encourage others to take action.
“If all of us say this can’t go on anymore, it won’t,” Lewis said.
Haas said she believes in the importance of Lewis’ exhibit and is proud her friend can give a voice to those who otherwise may not have one.
“Sometimes people are afraid of saying there’s actually child trafficking going on, and they kind of turn their back on it,” Haas said. “She is not one ever to turn their back on anything.”
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