Save The Date: October 9, 2024. Annual Gathering of Ignite Peace.

My Experience at Motel X

by Samantha Searls, Program Manager

Left to right: Sr. Margie Efkeman, OSU, Samantha Searls, Christine Marque, Sr. Therese DelGenio, SNDdeN, and Allison and Clare Reynolds-Berry

Less than two weeks ago, several of us at IJPC had the honor of being invited to attend the opening reception for Motel X, an interactive art exhibit currently showing at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The reception was for those who had donated their money, time and talents to help the artist, Christine Marque, realize her vision to bring more awareness of human trafficking through art. IJPC was one of the first organizations to collaborate with Christine, providing information, statistics and framing for the project.

The work we do at IJPC focuses on tough issues that affect real lives. As the Program Manager for our human trafficking and immigration work, I’m ashamed to admit that I often find myself working from my head instead of my heart. Every once in a while, though, opportunities present themselves to engage my heart and bring me back to the reasons I do this work. Motel X was that conduit for me.

The exhibit is set up to mimic the experience of staying in a motel. Inside the entrance, you encounter the front desk after passing by a row of mysterious motel doors. Then, you enter the bedroom, complete with a desk, closet, bed, TV, couch and dresser. Motel X is meant to be interactive, so there are opportunities to pull open drawers and look under cushions to learn more about sex trafficking. 

The second room is modeled after a bathroom with a tub, shower, sink, toilet and janitor’s cart, all marked with information about labor trafficking. The bathroom was the most powerful room for me. I recommend everyone pull back the shower curtain to see the sculpture in the tub.

The final room is preceded by a dizzying hallway with illuminated art, leading to a calm room filled with messages of hope and resilience. Artwork created by survivors of trafficking hang on the walls, next to framed words calling for action. It was a welcomed relief from the dark journey through the exhibit.

Not only was the exhibit itself emotionally moving for me, but I had the great privilege to walk through it with some of the sisters who started and shaped IJPC’s human trafficking work. Led by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a committee of women religious met frequently to educate the community about trafficking and to support local survivors. Their work led to the creation of IJPC’s human trafficking program. It was very special to show them Motel X, a project that was made possible by the seeds they planted years ago. 

If you get the chance, challenge yourself to go see Motel X. It won’t be an easy experience, but it’s a reminder of the very real situation people have to live through in our community.

Motel X Exhibit
Open now through April
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
50 E Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
$15 entry to Freedom Center, $5 entry to Motel X
More information here.