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Art exhibit brings fresh views on immigration


January 16, 2009

Captain America is being attacked by a giant Quetzal snake whose skin is striped in the colors of the Mexican flag.

It's a startling image on canvas, and quickly draws a crowd on the second floor of University Center at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.

Several people try to figure out if the look in Captain America's eyes is one of fear or anger. Others discuss what they feel the symbolism implies about issues of migration, immigration and their effect on community.

Artist Luis Gutierrez knows his answer, but he'd prefer viewers to share their thoughts instead. Like many of the Phoenix artists whose works are on display in a new exhibit, "Migration: Immigration, Giving Honor to Cultures and Communities," he's using art to encourage open-minded dialogue about an important and divisive current issue.

That's one of the main goals of the free exhibit, which runs through May 16 on the second floor of University Center, 411 N. Central Ave. More than 60 new works are on display, with about 100 more arriving from the ASU West Campus and South Mountain High School in Phoenix in time for an Urban Gallery Exhibition on April 3. This event will feature live music, dancers and interactive art during First Friday.

"This showing of art is a material example of social embeddedness," says Judy Butzine, co-founder of the Cultural Arts Coalition, which partners with ASU. "The arts are making the material link between the people of the community, the university and the students it's teaching. What we hope is that through the artists' interpretation of this subject, people are able to get another point of view that falls into the gray area - that isn't black or white."

The exhibit includes portraits from Emily Matyas, who traveled to Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, to depict families deeply affected by immigration policy.

Viewers can also see the results of a media project by youth at Neighborhood Ministries, a holistic outreach serving distressed families in urban Phoenix. They took photos and interviewed residents to share different perspectives on life in their community.

"This is trying to be an authentic voice from the community, speaking to the reality of the context that this campus finds itself in," says Ian Danley, Neighborhood Ministries high school program coordinator.

The exhibit was inspired by the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy's recent report, "Immigration: From Global to Local Kids," which examines immigration as a global, national, local, and family phenomenon.

"The goal is to create dialogue. Unless you talk, you can't understand the cultural differences and likenesses," says Phoenix artist and community activist Martin Moreno. "We are the family of humanity, after all."

The new installation is part of the ongoing For Our Eyes exhibition, which features artwork throughout the building from ASU's community partners. Viewing hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The exhibit will also be featured among the highlights of a daylong community event, "Action, Advocacy and Arts," focusing on the power of activism on Friday, April 3, at the downtown campus.

For information about the exhibit, contact ASU community liaison Malissa Geer at malissa.geer@asu.edu. To read the Morrison Institute report, visit: http://asu.edu/copp/morrison/forum411.htm. For "Action, Advocacy and Arts" details, visit: http://students.asu.edu/discovery.

To see more photos of the exhibit, visit: http://copp.asu.edu/do/college-news/events-gallery/immigration-art-exhibit