Milwaukee’s Immigration Stories in Art

This week, our class spent time learning and reading about various issues that have affected the United States immigrant community, both past and present. Being a second generation citizen, this is an issue that hits close to home. My mother emigrated to the United States of America from Nicaragua in the late 1980s, leaving behind three children to seek a better life in the USA. At the time, Nicaragua, like other Central American nations, was in a state of political turmoil and my mother thought that by moving to the United States, she could make a better living to support her family back home.

My mother’s story is a common story, one constantly found among immigrant families. Issues relating to immigration have been a hot topic as of late, with news of the DREAM ACT (at both the state and federal level), Immigration reform and more. An exhibition called “Ni De Aquí Ni Se Allá.” addressed these issues in both a political and personal context.

The “Ni De Aquí Ni Se Allá” exhibition features a sole artist, Raoul Deal, who is a senior lecturer at the Peck School of Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He is also an artist-in-residence for the school’s Cultures and Communities Program and has exhibited much of his artwork in galleries in both in the United States and his native country of Mexico. The idea for the exhibition came from an oral history project that was conducted over a series of  years by Deal. Deal and his team of undergraduate students interviewed ten families in the Milwaukee region. These ten families have all had members who emigrated from Mexico to the United States.[i] The themes of these interviews ranged from topics of assimilation, isolation, and multiculturalism to issues affecting mixed status families, and of course politics.[ii]

With the audio of the interviews in the background, the exhibition displayed woodblock prints that Deal had created using the content of the histories he had heard. One artwork (displayed below) shows a woman and a child amidst a protest in support of the DREAM Act, which provides undocumented individuals, temporary legal status so that they may go to college and receive federal student aid,  join the military, and more.

The “Ni De Aquí Ni Se Allá” exhibition was on display at the Latino Arts Inc. gallery at the United Community Center in the spring of 2013.[iii] The Latino Arts Inc. is a non-profit organization, established in 1985, it features Hispanic artists in the fields various fields of art, theater, dance, and visual arts. The organization aims to bring cultural awareness of issues concerning the Hispanic community in the Greater Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin region. They offer many programs and workshops for all members of the neighboring community.[iv]

[i] Oulahan, Amalia.“Exhibit Tells Stories of Latino Immigrants.” Urban Milwaukee, May 1, 2013. Accessed on Feb 5, 2014. http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2013/05/01/exhibit-tells-stories-of-latino-immigrants/

[ii] Milewski, Selena. “Reflections on Immigration: Latino Arts, Ni De Aqui Ni De Alla.” Express Milwaukee, March 26, 2013. Accessed on Feb 5, 2014.    http://expressmilwaukee.com/article-20797-art-::-reflections-on-immigration-::-shepherd-express:-milwaukee’s-best-guide-events,-music,-news-and-dining.html

[iii] Oulahan, Amalia.“Exhibit Tells Stories of Latino Immigrants.” Urban Milwaukee, May 1, 2013. Accessed on Feb 5, 2014. http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2013/05/01/exhibit-tells-stories-of-latino-immigrants/

[iv] Latino Arts In. “About Us.” Accessed on Feb 5, 2014. http://www.latinoartsinc.org/LatinoArts/AboutUs.htmImage

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