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'Art and Refugees' open house, panel will explore the refugee crisis through art



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Kade Padgett, Late Nite director at the Indiana Memorial Union Board, looks at refugee posters. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

An open house and panel will bring elements of the "Art and Refugees: Shine the Light to IU" exhibit to the Global and International Studies Building from 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 10.

Participants will be able to create art in GISB Room 1060 and listen to a panel featuring artists advocating for refugee welfare.   

The event is part of a larger exhibit put on by the IU-Purdue University Indianapolis Office of International Affairs and organized alongside the Center for the Study of Global Change at IU.

The exhibit is located at the Cultural Arts Gallery inside IUPUI’s Campus Center, displaying the work of four artists. 

Laura Donefer created "Todesmarche Revisited," a glass and cement work commemorating Holocaust survivors. The piece consists of cast glass feet honoring those who died in death marches during the Holocaust. Some of the foot models were actual Holocaust survivors, according to Urban Glass, an art organization based in Brooklyn, New York.

Charlotte Schmitz is the photographer for "Take me to Jermany," a collection of photos of refugees, many of them Syrian, who were traveling into Europe through Greece and Turkey. The printed photographs feature handwritten notes from those pictured, giving them a chance to tell their stories beyond the pictures.

“The refugees’ personal stories and handwriting show a nuanced, human, relatable depth to the individuals and aims to spark empathy and recognition,” Schmitz said in an email.

Also attending the panel will be Deborah Haber, the director of "Moses Man: A Musical Journey of Survival." The performance follows the true story of a Holocaust survivor as he fled Vienna, Austria, during the Nazi occupation, according to the musical’s website.

Haber collaborated with David Marshall, director of the "Finding Home" documentary, to include excerpts of his film in the exhibit. The documentary follows LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers living in Los Angeles.

No Lost Generation, a student organization which advocates for refugee resettlement in the United States, organized the open house where participants are invited to come create art of their own. Director Abigail Gipson said in an email she felt this event is important because of the complex issues it addresses.

“I wanted to create an environment where people felt free to ask questions without being intimidated,” Gipson said. “It's an opportunity to start conversations with people about migration.”

The open house will be followed by the panel event where the gallery artists will be answering questions and will share their experiences.

Elizabeth Konwest, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Global Change, said in an email that participants will hear from artists who explore the themes of refugees both past and present, and she said she wishes to reach as many groups as possible. 

“The refugee crisis is not over and, unfortunately, new areas of the world are experiencing turmoil and forced migration,” Konwest said.

The event is important because of what the art can teach the people in attendance, Schmitz said. 

“They show an essential, unbreakable truth: what humanity has in common is greater than what divides us,” Schmitz said. “My goal is to bring social issues to public debate, by presenting a new perspective to it.”

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