A group of 9 women, including Selma, arrived to Sculpture Space for their first scheduled workshop and our work began! The brief was to create a model proposal for a monument or building that they would like to see existing in Utica. The enthusiasm and intent that followed was really impressive. They all dove in with strong visions for their proposals. A creation of a future dream home, a recreating of a past home in a refugee camp, a museum showcasing different cultural backgrounds of refugees settled in Utica, a utopian island and more! The women come from many areas of the world including Palestine, Syria, Sudan, Burma and Bosnia and some have been living in Utica for a long time, since they were small children, whilst are much more recent. I was struck by the level of detail and care that went into the work. The following are images from the workshops. The next post will see the finished results!
Photo credits: Raquel Figueira
About 8 months prior to my residency at Sculpture Space I had made contact with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in order to create a partnership for my project, Borders Unfold. I had wanted to work with Utica’s refugee community through a number of workshops exploring notions of place and the relationship between our inner and outer worlds.
In my first meeting at the MVRCR I was met by Michael Zaffino, the executive assistant to Shelly Callahan who is the director of the organisation, and Selma Jasencic, the Immigrant Community Navigator at the Center. Tom, the director of Sculpture Space attended the meeting too and we discussed the details and logistics of the workshops. We were all very excited about what this collaboration could bring to the participants and the community. As we discussed things further, Michael and Selma discussed the challenges the center has been met with since Trump’s administration and funding cuts that have since taken place. They also pointed out the noticeable decrease of refugee arrival to Utica. This was unsettling although not surprising. I wondered what the destiny was of all the victims who no longer had the option of escaping to the US, it felt like a violent and apathetic attempt at annihilation.
Selma was herself a refugee from Bosnia and now like a number of the organisation’s staff, helps others go through the same challenges she was faced with during the 90s and beyond. There was a certain drive and resilience about Selma that felt familiar. We were excited to be collaborating on this project and it was interesting to think how our history that is distinguished by geographic fracture, had now equally brought us firmly together. We closed the meeting with Selma intending to bring together a group of participants for the workshops.