It’s a gallery of self-titled work, accented in red, highlighting experiences of Diana Juliao’s soul.
The canvas is where Juliao lets her pain live, no longer festering inside her but instead on display to people passing by.
“I want to combine mental health and art to open people up to their emotions,” Juliao said. “I think my art is different, but it’s real and you can feel stuff. Nobody likes to see their feelings on display; nobody likes to be in touch with what they’re really feeling inside.”
In addition to being a junior psychology student at UCF, Juliao is also the executive director for the nonprofit There Is Hope For Me, an organization that works with human trafficking survivors who seek guidance transitioning back into society.
A self-taught artist, Juliao works with men and women during their recovery process by combining art and psychology to process pain and traumas. She knows firsthand how processing her pain can help. As a survivor of sexual assault and someone who still struggles with depression, she said she realizes the importance of having art as an outlet.
“I do a lot of art therapy with the survivors, and the reaction that they have after they create something is just beautiful because you’re getting your feelings out there and you’re seeing them,” Juliao said. “They’re like ‘Wow that’s what’s going on inside of me?’”
Juliao’s mother Katariina Rosenblatt, a survivor of human trafficking, started There Is Hope For Me in 2011. While growing the organization with Juliao by her side, Rosenblatt was eventually able to entrust her daughter with the responsibilities of continuing the work for survivors.
“Handing it over to my daughter was a given,” Rosenblatt said. “She has unique and innovative ideas that speak to this generation and this is something that is needed.”
These innovative ideas were sparked through Juliao’s experiences making art. Working with the survivors through art has created a new channel for them to communicate through. According to The American Art Therapy Association’s, art therapy is used to "foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change."
The organization's outreach now extends to Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Washington D.C. and Washington State. Juliao and her mother have spoken at UCF in previous years to bring awareness of how common human trafficking is and how anyone could potentially fall victim to the exploitation.
“You could meet one while you’re getting coffee ... ” Juliao said of human trafficking survivors. “It could be anyone and everyone, and it’s not as uncommon as we think.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there have been more than 40,000 victims of human trafficking nationwide since 2007. The state of Florida has the third-highest rate of reported cases of trafficking in the last six years.
The nonprofit encompasses all people who have been trafficked. Juliao explains that exploitation can happen to people in many ways, although extreme experiences are cases of abduction and human trafficking. Her own experience of being exploited as a young girl left her with unpaid wages at a job.
Juliao doesn’t always use her personal experiences to create art; she has expanded her portfolio and participated in two exhibitions at the Orlando City Arts Factory. Her pieces found their way into the Hispanic Heritage and Halloween exhibitions.
Two of her paintings for the Hispanic Heritage exhibition, “Me gente de Colombia” of the Colombian flag and “El Yunque” of the Puerto Rican rain forest, centered on her Hispanic culture.
A piece that does lend itself to the work she does is called the “Feminine Body.” The painting focuses on a woman’s physical being and alludes to a deeper meaning for Juliao. As a woman and someone who works with women who have been exploited and abused, the female body speaks loudly on her canvases.
“When I do a lot of the feminine stuff, it’s a lot of the pain I’ve gone through and a lot of pain that women go through,” Juliao said. “I always think back to Tupac’s song “Keep Your Head Up” where he’s like, ‘And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman and our game from a woman, I wonder why we take from our women.’”
But Juliao doesn’t just focus on women. She began working on a book specifically for men, and aims to highlight the complicated dynamic that she has experienced with men throughout her own life.
“I’ve always had this burden for guys since I was little to help them see that you can feel and you can cry and you don’t have to be a jerk,” Juliao said.
Juliao’s book is a work of her poetry for each kind of man who has crossed hers and every woman’s path. While the book focuses on relationships, it also attempts to communicate to men the answers to questions they have about their sisters, mothers, friends and lovers.
Juliao hopes that in creating the book and putting her art on display, she will help people heal not only themselves but their relationships with others.
“I want people to be exposed to my art; I want it to speak to everybody in some way,” Juliao said. “I’m trying to show the world my pain and hopefully people will grow from that."