Rise of the Butterfly: Artists Tackle HumanTrafficking

Jacob Devaney
5 min readApr 20, 2018


“Art changes people and people change the world,” -Layla Love. When art is paired with social purpose and given license for personal transformation, it becomes a transcendent force of nature with the power to shape all who come into contact with it. Rise of the Butterfly is applying this profound wisdom to address the issue of human trafficking world-wide. With her new show, Rise, opening in New York on May 17th of this year and to be toured globally, Love enlists her viewers to actively participate in the liberation of her subjects. This is not the sort of activism that overwhelms one by reminding them of endless problems, it instead seduces audiences with the beauty of solutions while empowering them to take action.

“Love has recently brought her service through art to a new level in the launching of her own nonprofit, Rise of the Butterfly, conceived with Gloria Steinem. The mission is to expand the reach of art as visual-aid to evoke activism in a public domain, and provide a sustainable source of funding for grassroots organizations working to help women and girls around the world rise.” -Layla Love Website

Empathic Expression has the power to transcend even the darkest aspects of the human condition and Layla Love has spent her life exemplifying this in her work. Having spent time as a photojournalist in war-torn countries, and been put in foreign prisons, her work has appeared in the White House, been shown with Eric Franck Fine Art at Paris Photo, Art Basel, the MoMa sponsored AiPAD Photography Show in New York, and beyond. The beauty of art isn’t about distracting us from the ugliness of this world. It is about reminding us of our resilience, our compassion, along with our responsibility to take action towards healing and transformation.

Human Trafficking is more prevalent than most people realize. The majority of victims are young women and the result of war-torn countries or places stricken with poverty. It will take a truly global movement to address the policies that allow this atrocity to happen, but in the meantime there needs to be an outpouring of love and support to those who are caught in this unspeakable suffering. Layla Love’s nonprofit organization, Rise of the Butterfly, is committed to supplying a sustainable source of funding for grassroots organizations working diligently to protect those who are affected by human trafficking and environmental displacement.

The Approach is Threefold:

  1. Create safe and soothing spaces where viewers and survivors alike can recover, see the world from a different perspective, and take practical steps toward change.
  2. Provide sustainable funding to social justice efforts through gallery exhibitions, with half of all proceeds directly supporting benefactors and half supporting administrative needs and necessary art supplies.
  3. The art produced creates a cycle of funding and final tier of fundraising, a series of limited edition pieces by Layla Love.

“Artists who choose to unite in strength counterbalance how fragile the state of the world is. How we treat the earth, how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves give us all the ability to rise. That is the beginning and end of this mission: to collectively and individually rise.” -Rise of the Butterfly Website

A Gallery Show in New York City on May 17 will be the official launch, but this show is slated to travel the world. The total collection includes over 70 pieces. Each image comes from a limited edition collection of under 10 with half of the images being available only as a single piece of fine art with no further edition. Collectors are not the only ones who will cherish these beautiful pieces by bringing them home. Each person will bring home a fire of passion to become active in this important matter. It is through this deep human emotion of connection, and compassion that we will bring healing to this heart wrenching problem of human trafficking.

Gallery Space: 555 West 25th St, New York, NY

Permanent Showroom: 150 West 28th St with a 40 piece collection of Love’s work for the past three years shared at the National Organization of Women headquarters.

Proceeds from sales of works and books at the show and online go toward supporting Rise of the Butterfly and other organizations working to address this important issue.

“I was speaking with Gloria Steinem in her living room several years ago as we established the foundation, and now as I’m ready to launch, I ask if you would like to support our mission or share the message in any way. It would be an honor to collaborate and share in the art of living with you.” -Layla Love

A Global Movement. Artists in collaboration, across platforms and mediums have an unprecedented ability to lead the way to a better future. It is not sustainable to look the other way, to drown in the problems, or to fill one’s self with anger and despair. Together we rise with compassion, empowered to be the salve for the wounds of our own human shadow. Visit the website, host an event in your community, create your own art, and share this story with your social networks. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

What other ways will artists take lead in this time of uncertainty and pain on our beautiful planet? What ways will you step up to become those changes that you would most like to see in the world?

Sometimes it is those who merely add a touch of color to another’s dream that are the invisible hands of magic. Rise of the Butterfly showcases the juxtaposition between those of us that are adding to the destructive forces and those vying to have creative energy take center stage. Every action is an action of creation or destruction. This is a call to action that we may each be the creators of awareness and viable solutions.



Jacob Devaney

Cultural-Creative, Media-Maker, Dreamer, Musician. Technology, Art, Science, Health, Spirituality, Culture, Community, Environment. UNIFY Co-Founder