There’s a current global refugee crisis in our midst.
Many believe the recent decision by United Kingdom voters to disassociate themselves from the European Union is an effort to curb refugee migration into their country.
Oh, and also, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee wants to build a wall at the Mexican border to keep people out of the United States.
How far would you go to touch independence and safety? What would happen when you’re met with resistance?
That’s the focus of an art exhibit at the New Haven Museum (NHM), curated by Susan Clinard, titled Stories from Near and Far: Refugee Artists in New Haven, running from June 8 to Sept. 16.
The exhibit features work from refugee artists including Maher Shakir, Wurood, Mahmood Ridha and Ali Ahmed from Iraq; Moussa Gueye from Mouritania; and Dariush Rose and Johnny Mikiki Bombenza from Iran.
Clinard and the exhibit’s artists exchanged stories of their travels through the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) and piqued the interest of NHM Executive Director Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky in the process.
“We wanted to share the beauty of artists’ work who come from such diverse backgrounds but who found themselves here, in New Haven, for the same reason,” Clinard says.
“The stories of how and why they came to this country are powerful, only to be reinforced by their visual expressions,” she remarks.
Clinard, who thrives on canvassing the tribulations of shared humanity, knew what values the project would provoke.
“An incredible shared resiliency, hope, gratitude and strong work ethic,” she says. “No matter what country they came from, they all want what we want — to live without fear and persecution.”
And even more, she says, “To be able to expresses themselves freely. To have a strong family and community.”
The refugee experience is humbling, Clinard notes, adding how resourceful the migrants are and how they integrate, “yet still maintain a true sense of identity. We can see this in their artwork.”
Grave misconceptions exist about the refugee population, which so desperately needs the compassion our country showed many of our ancestors. Clinard says there is a misconception “That they come here wanting handouts or are here to change our American way of life,” which she immediately rebukes.
Clinard says she hopes the exhibit can teach visitors to contemplate how they would cope with the refugee experience.
“What if one day you feared for the lives of your children due to circumstances outside your control?” she asks.
The art becomes a tool for these artists to express their experience, she explains, which is a worthy endeavor for healing and awareness.
“There is beauty and pain but most of all there is gratitude for being here. Share their celebration,” Clinard says.
The New Haven Museum on 114 Whitney Ave. is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays noon to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $4, seniors $3, students $2 and kids 12 and under are free.