Sculpting Awareness at TEDxCarson City

The Awaken sculpture by Carson City resident Mischell Riley is displayed outside of the Brewery Arts Center to spread awarness of human sex trafficking.

The Awaken sculpture by Carson City resident Mischell Riley is displayed outside of the Brewery Arts Center to spread awarness of human sex trafficking.

This Friday, you may find a new 8-foot statue in front of the Brewery Arts Center: The Awaken.

It depicts a woman with her eyes closed and her hair is untamed, flowing free; it’s a soft expression, as if she were letting the wind rush through her body.

Behind every sculpture there’s a story and a motive; she’s sitting there for six months to spread awareness about human sex trafficking.

She was created by Mischell Riley, a Carson City resident who sculpts statues not only for the public to enjoy but to get people to spread the word.

“There’s a lot of trafficking in this region and I wanted to do something about this issue,” she said. “When you promote awareness through art, it’s more likely to start a conversation.”

The idea was inspired by the Awaken Shelter in Reno, where volunteers and case managers work with victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The organization’s logo has similar features to Riley’s sculpture, except with a blindfold across the eyes.

In an art-driven community such as Carson City, Riley knew erecting this sculpture would be a perfect opportunity.

She also raised $1 at a time through donations to create the statue, which proceeds will then go toward the shelter.

“I think art is a polite reminder to the public and it directs the energy to help,” she said.

According to the shelter, commercial sex marketing is highly intense in Crystal Bay, downtown Reno, and Virginia City.

In Carson City, there’s somewhat low intensity but there are between 95-100 women and children who are commercially exploited on a monthly basis.

The statue is a perfect addition to the opening day of TEDxCarson City, as many of this year’s speakers will be discussing topics on human sex trafficking and domestic violence.

“My fight for human rights is to make a difference in a peaceful and artistic way,” Riley said. “My philosophy is radical inclusion. I’m not against men by all means and I want to help women experiencing this.”

Riley’s Awaken sculpture also is a duplicate of the 11-foot Awaken sculpture standing at The Eddy, a beer garden located in downtown Reno.

Her work also has been featured at Burning Man 2016; her piece “Inside the Mind of daVinci”, is Leonardo daVinci’s emerging from the ground and symbolizes to share artistic and inventive ideas.

The sculpture has been displayed at the University of Nevada, Reno’s campus and will be featured at the Nevada Day Parade.

Another project she’s working on is a sculpture of Maya Angelou, called “Maya’s Mind,” which will be displayed at the Playa Park in downtown Reno from November through March. The sculpture will then make its way to The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., but Riley needs funding assistance.

Riley said her work is made possible by generous donations from community members and events, just to display a work of art for a cause. Her proceeds for sculpting go toward the cause; in this case, her funds for The Awaken are going to the shelter itself.

“I commute from Carson to Sparks to work at The Generator workshop for about 15 hours a day,” she said. “I’ve even bathed there. It takes me about two to six months to complete a sculpture, depending on its size. Fundraising really helps motivate your art for a cause.”

Each of Riley’s sculptures contains a QR Code for observers to scan. The code will link to a website on how they can contribute to helping the cause, represented by the sculpture.

Riley hopes the Awaken will stick around Carson City after its six-month display in front of BAC ends.

She will be selling smaller versions of The Awaken at the TEDx event for $200. Proceeds will go to The Awaken shelter in Reno.

To learn more about Riley and how to donate to her projects, visit her website


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