With roughly 80,000 new refugees arriving in the United States each year, communities nationwide are tuning in to the cultural offerings these growing populations provide.
As refugees arrive in Indianapolis from countries such as Burma, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, local residents play a crucial role in welcoming these new neighbors, and helping them feel at home in Indianapolis.
In conjunction with World Refugee Day, commemorated on June 20 since 2001, an art exhibit and garden project will provide two different avenues to connect with Indy's refugee community.
Earlier this year Exodus Refugee Immigration, will welcome more than 700 refugees this year alone, launched a unique project to bring together local refugee artists. The exhibit, titled "This is Home: An Exhibition of Refugee Art," equipped area refugee artists to exhibit their work and tell their stories. The exhibit was featured in several venues throughout the community, including The Indiana Landmarks Center in March and Arts at All Saints in May.
The exhibit opens one last time on Tuesday, June 18th, at the IUPUI Cultural Arts Gallery on the second floor of IUPUI's Campus Center. The exhibit will hang in the gallery until July 3rd. Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
All work is for sale at the exhibit, and all proceeds go directly to the artists.
The exhibit features over a dozen refugee artists who articulate their concept of "home" within their work. Through painting, drawing, textiles, 2D animation, metals and more, these artists bring diverse cultural influences from around the world to Indianapolis.
This opening event features a special presentation by mesh flower artist Holly Yu, a refugee from Northeastern China who was physically and psychologically tortured for practicing her religion, Falun Dafa.
Additional contributors include artists and artisans from Burma, Thailand, China, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger.Mediums include painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, metalsmithing, leatherworking, and 2D animation.A smaller version of the show will hang at Calvin Fletcher's Coffee Company during the month of August.
Another event commemorating World Refugee Day will take place on Thursday, June 20, at Indy Urban Acres on 7700 E. 21st St in Indianapolis. Guests are invited to join Indy Urban Acres, a project of Gleaners Food bank, IU Health, and the Indy Parks Foundation, on World Refugee Day for an afternoon of digging around and free health workshops and screenings. The event will be held from 1-5 pm.
The Immigrant & Refugee Service Corps and Indy Urban Acres have teamed up with a variety of organizations to create an exciting event in which refugees, immigrants, and native Hoosiers will come together for a day of service on the farm. In addition to the farming event, health opportunities will include nutrition education, blood pressure and diabetes testing, and fun activities for kids.
Located just outside of downtown Indianapolis, Indy Urban Acres is an 8 acre organic farm that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to local food pantries. [The farm in a 2013 recipient of a NUVO Cultural Vision Award.]
Another exhibit in June and July will highlight the journey of a family from Burma who arrived in Indianapolis as refugees. A large photographic installation highlighting the family's story as well as stories of other refugees will be on display at the Indianapolis Central Library through the end of July.
Katie Basbagill, a human rights photographer whose work has taken her around the world, captured the images during the first year of a refugee family's arrival in Indianapolis. Katie was at the airport when the family arrived and subsequently photographed their lives over the course of one year.
Katie says it's her hope that the photos and accompanying stories "will educate our community about the large population of Burmese refugees in our city." She hopes that the stories and photos will help inspire volunteer involvement with Exodus Refugee Immigration.
"Action is key," she says.
In addition to events going on throughout the city, fair trade gift store Global Gifts is donating 10 percent of all sales to Exodus Refugee Immigration on World Refugee Day. Both the Nora and Mass Ave. locations will participate on Thursday, June 20th.
Kristin Wright is director of development at Exodus Refugee Immigration.