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Artists and Activists Tell the Story Over and Over

Panelist at 516 Arts: Rebecca Schreiber, Professor of American Studies, UNM; Jessica Corley, Executive Director of ABQ FaithWorks Collaborative; Juana Estrada Hernandez, artist; Edgar Picazo, Editor in Chief of Azul Arena and developer of the exhibit; Carol Suzuki, Keleher & McLeod Professor at UNM School of Law, working with the UNM Border Justice Initiative.

On November 16, ABQ FaithWorks Executive Director, Jessica Corley, participated on a panel of artists and activist discussing the link between them. Jessica underscored that the US immigration system is broken dealt with more like a political football than a solvable problem. Artist Juana Estrada Hernandez, a DACA recipient and artist, also on the panel, said that art gave her “the voice to tell her story” as a Zapatecan who came to the US at 7 when she was learning English as a child. Print-making as a medium allows her to tell it

over and over and multiply the message. Edgar Picazo from the Rubin Center who collaborated with the artists in putting together the exhibit, emphasized that there’s also “art in the process” of creating art, facilitating the creative process, and being an activist.

Jessica echoed both of those sentiments: “The process of providing services to migrants in our communities needs to be responsive, collaborative, and creative every day.” Resilience is key in responding to beautiful and natural human needs of food and shelter in a context where policy, laws, and practice can change rapidly. And the stories of migrants need to be told and retold because the public narrative often loses the historical context, human dimension and urgency of the national need for compassion and smarter policy.

This is what we do at ABQ FaithWorks.

About the exhibit: Imagine the many shelters along the US-Mexican border between 2019 and 2021. The “Remain in Mexico” (Migrant Protection Program) policy has been introduced by then-President Trump, keeping thousands of migrants from seeking asylum in the US. The shelters are full. Only a few “vulnerable populations” are allowed to cross for a while. Then comes Covid and Title 42, which disallows migrants (although not those with visas) to cross because of the pandemic. Shelters are over-full. Immigration is a contentious issue in the 2020 election in the US. Even when vaccinations are available and administered, Title 42 remains in place. In this climate artist and activist Minerva Cuevas is inspired by what creative environments in El Paso and Juarez. This exhibit and an unauthored ‘yellow pages’ of the solidarity networks providing direct services to migrants in El Paso are the result. The Yellow Pages was distributed in shelters in Juarez.

The art exhibit came to the 516 Arts gallery from UTEP. It provides “a conceptual framework to share, host and develop aesthetic exercises that do not necessarily rely on authorship but instead blur the artist as the source of knowledge and creativity and instead engage a diverse set of collaborators.” The exhibit also highlights that “migration is a natural process that is common to diverse species.”

Migratory / Migratoria is an exhibit at 516 Arts, Albuquerque’s modern art gallery at 516 Central SW downtown. Running through December 31, 2022. Open Tue-Sat 12-5. Exhibit organized by the Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso with collaboration by the Juarez-based nonprofit Azul Arena.


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