‘Making Migration Visible’ A Unique Collaboration of Artists and Community Groups

Friday November 23, 2018

By Patricia Nyhan

Maine speaks with a stronger voice on immigration than you might think from its size. It is home to more refugees than you might expect — a vibrant addition to the political and creative scene there. Artists and grassroots community groups also abound in the state.

Together they launched a collaboration a few months ago that could be replicated in any state to further the national immigration discussion.

“I am optimistic that this unprecedented grassroots initiative will ignite a critically needed statewide dialogue on immigration,” said Laura Freid, President, Maine College of Art (MECA), whose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is spearheading the Maine effort.

 “We hope this collaboration serves as a national model for how to bring a fresh perspective on migration to communities across our country.”

More than 70 independent art exhibits, film screenings, poetry readings, lectures, and panel discussions, among other activities, are taking place across Maine. (See a full list of events here.)

Events include Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways, an exhibition at ICA at MECA in Portland, Maine. Running October 5–December 14, 2018 the show will present works by diverse artists, many of whom have personal migration experiences. Additional initiative activities include:

  • ICA at MECA (Portland) – November 2nd Symposium on Art and Politics;
  • Museum LA (Lewiston) – hosting six film screenings accompanied by panel discussions;
  • Frontier Theater and Cafe (Brunswick) – hosting a screening with food pairing;
  • Capital Area New Mainers Project (Augusta) – hosting community dinners;
  • Portland Stage (Portland) – where Refuge*Malja will be presented, accompanied by a host of post-performance discussions;
  • Center for Maine Contemporary Art (Rockland) – hosting a virtual reality pop up of Daniel Quintanilla/UnitedYES/Yarn Corporation;
  • The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP)/ACLU-Maine (Portland), participating in a panel on current political context of migration policy.
  • Jason De León, an archaeologist working with photographer Michael Wells to recover, document, and archive objects left behind by migrants in the Sonoran desert;
  • Mohamad Hafez, who focuses his work on instruments of mobility for Syrian refugees, such as life-rafts and suitcases;
  • María Patricia Tinajero and Edwige Charlot, artists who draw on botanical references, soil and water to explore conceptions of rootedness and heritage;
  • Daniel Quintanilla/United YES/Yarn Corporation, a collaboration making virtual reality films about immigrant life in Maine;
  • Other artists include: Ahmed Alsoudani, Caroline Bergvall, Eric Gottesman, Romuald Hazoumè, Ranu Mukherjee, and Yu-Wen Wu. (See artists’ bios here.)


Has your state or region mounted such a collaboration between artists, refugees and community groups? Please share your experience!

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