In honor of International Sex Workers’ Rights Day, the Sex Worker Outreach Project of Chicago (SWOP Chicago) is hosting an art show this Friday, March 6.
The exhibit focuses on portraits of sex workers in a variety of mediums: paintings, photographs, performance pieces, film, sculpture, and musical compositions. All of the art was created by current and former sex workers, as well as people working in the adult industries. Sex work, as SWOP Chicago’s website defines it, is “any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client.”
SWOP Chicago started in 2006 as an informal support group, a satellite of the larger Sex Workers’ Outreach Project USA. Three sex workers—Betty Devoe, Kitten Infinite, and Serpent Libertine—thought that local sex workers needed a space to share stories, fight stigmas, and feel safe.
Since that time, SWOP Chicago has expanded rapidly. Its street outreach program on the west side of Chicago has distributed over 18,000 condoms. And the group has also produced a resource guide for people in the industry, and established monthly meetings, trainings, and a network of 200 members. The group is volunteer run and funded through projects like the art show.