UNC graduate Oona Lewis organizes art exhibition to help victims of human trafficking in Nepal



A graduate of UNC, Oona Lewis’s passion for art began when she was just a child.

Today, she uses her artistic talents to raise awareness among the children who need it most: the victims of human trafficking in Nepal.

Lewis will present “Small World”, his art exhibit benefiting Vecino Brewing Co. located at 300 E. Main St., Suite C, Carrboro. The exhibition will run from July 9 to August 29, with a vernissage on Friday July 16 at 6 p.m.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to two anti-sex trafficking organizations – La Pomme des yeux de Dieu, a residential recovery center for victims of trafficking, and Hasta Memorial School, a school for children in high risk of being trafficked.

“Small World” will feature a series of paintings inspired by Lewis’ recent trip to Nepal, she said. The exhibition will also feature some of Lewis’ multidimensional works.

Lewis graduated from UNC in 1980 with a degree from the School of Journalism and a second major in studio art. Although she had always been drawn to art, her love for painting began after the birth of her first child, she said.

“While I was at home with a baby, I decided I needed to paint,” Lewis said. “Something was clearly missing in my life. “

Lewis said she started looking for a space to establish an art studio in order to find this missing piece. Today Lewis is an artist-in-residence at Barnes Corner Gallery and co-owner of ArtVentures, located in Wilson.

Jean Haas, a longtime friend of Lewis’s, said Lewis shows “diverse talent” when painting and thinks his work is unique.

“She doesn’t lock herself in anything,” Haas said. “Everything she does is wonderful.”

While in Nepal, Lewis said she was fascinated by painting the beauty of the country – but she also became aware of its struggles.

“While we were there I ran into a woman sitting at a loom,” Lewis said. “She had been saved from trafficking and had a very difficult life. So, I took a lot of interest in this problem.

Lewis said she was also motivated to get involved after reading “Standing in the Way” by Anjali Tamang, a human trafficking survivor who once resided at the apple of God’s eyes.

Tamang is now raising funds to open Hasta Memorial School. Reading Tamang’s story made Lewis recognize how pervasive the problem is, she said.

Lewis’s business partner and friend Pegi Barnes-Sharp said she was not surprised to hear about the purpose of the show.

“I know his heart,” Barnes-Sharp said. “If she saw a need and was moved by it, then she would go about it.”

Lewis said she hopes her event will not only help fund the cause, but also create awareness and encourage others to take action.

“If we all say this can’t go on anymore, it won’t be,” Lewis said.

Haas said she believes in the importance of Lewis’ exposure and is proud that her friend can give voice to those who might not otherwise have a voice.

“Sometimes people are afraid to say that there is actually child trafficking, and they turn their backs on it,” Haas said. “She’s never the type to turn her back on anything.”

Lewis said she encouraged anyone interested in helping fight human trafficking in Nepal to visit her opening reception or make a direct donation to Hasta Memorial School or Apple of God’s Eyes.

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