Migrations: Perspectives on an Elemental Impulse

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This week I have a new exhibit opening at the 39th Street Gallery in the Gateway Arts District, a group show that explores varying perspectives and artistic approaches to the common theme: migrations.

Not a bad time to reflect on this theme. This week, a coalition of groups and individuals I have been working with for the past few years on border policy on the US-Mexico border will release the results of a poll at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The poll shows how a lack of information, and a general frustration over immigration issues, has led to confusion as to just what is happening on the US-Mexico border. Respondents went from supporting a wall on the southern border to not supporting this infrastructure and associated costs, just with a few simple facts about what has been happening on the border. This information–a cost of several billion dollars, a lack of effectiveness, and environmental damage that has come from the construction of border wall–is really just the tip of the iceberg. But a little bit of information can make a big difference.

Melanie Emerson, the executive director of the Sky Island Alliance, one of the groups involved in the poll, put it this way: “In times of economic uncertainty it is important to focus resources where they will be most effective.  There is no excuse for wasting billions on a program that we know – and even the strongest advocates admit – won’t work.”

Beyond the idea of efficacy of walls and other expensive infrastructure and enforcement activities, there is the question of what exactly it means to be building walls between nations, through ecosystems, across continents. Which brings me back to the exhibit. There is no doubt that human migrations are cause for some reflection in societies, they have to be. They bring up issues of economic disparity and cultural difference, and even environmental sustainability. Reflection is not bad, and determining a smart way to guide and reduce immigration is inevitable. But the problem comes when we start to identify migrants as “others” rather than understand we are all migrants in some sense over time, either in our own lives and past, or through our familial heritage, and certainly through our evolutionary history. People move, animals move, every living creature of the earth is bound to move, and must in some circumstances, if it is to survive.

“Migrations” is a series of reflections on this urge toward movement, and what can happen when government policies seek to block or force that movement.

Come to the opening Saturday, July 16 if you can. It’s from 4-7 pm, at the 39th Street Gallery, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood Maryland. There will be several other gallery openings in the building that same time. All free and open to the public.

We will also be doing an artist talk on August 13 at 7pm.


**This exhibit was created with the support of the Prince George’s Arts Council