Lynne Barletta’s life changed on the other side of the world. The Palm City artist, commissioned to paint a mural in Singapore in 2015 at a home for abused girls, heard horrific stories about sex trafficking. One came from an 18-year-old who had been sold by her parents since age 8.
Barletta began working one-on-one with the girl. She taught her how to draw images and objects with positive, uplifting messages intended to aid the healing process. It worked.
“She was deeply impacted,” Barletta says. “I saw how much the art helped her.”
When she returned to Florida, the third-ranked state in the nation for sex trafficking, she formed Catch the Wave of Hope. The non-profit raises awareness about the illicit industry and its rampancy with the goal of funding a $1 million shelter for those rescued.
To kick-start the campaign, she launched a large-scale art project on the side of the AT&T building at 316 Akron Ave. that depicts the St. Lucie River and its varied marine life. While she completed most of it, members of the community participated by seeking donations for the fish they painted.
“We also got sponsorships for the larger animals,” Barletta says of the alligators, dolphins, turtles and other colorful creatures. “It’s become a landmark.”
In addition to her art career, which includes running the Visionary School of Arts for 80-plus area youths, she is the lead pastor at Visionary Centers International, a church that convenes Sunday evenings. Born into a family of missionaries, she has combined her creativity with her calling and developed The Power of Art, a therapy-centered curriculum to help victims of the trade.
“I have never been more fulfilled in my life,” says the 64-year-old who recently spoke at a national sex-trafficking conference in San Diego. “I have seen lives saved. I have seen lives rescued. I have seen people do more with their lives than they otherwise could have.”
What sparked your childhood interest in art?
I loved art at age 5, and my mother encouraged me by letting me paint in the kitchen. She hung my art on the living room wall and showed it to everyone. I thought I was good.
What is one of the most vivid memories of your missionary family?
My grandmother and her older sister went into the local jail. Grammy played the piano, and “Sister,” as they called her, played the saxophone. They went on a regular basis for 30 years. They shared their testimony with me of how touched those men were.
What has the feedback been about the mural?
The community has embraced it and thanked us wherever we go. Individuals, businesses, organizations, our city and county officials have placed it on an art walk and made it a tourism destination. It has brought tremendous awareness concerning human sex trafficking.