Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid
Undocumented Latino youth who have lived in this country since they were infants or toddlers are an increasingly significant demographic in the South. They consider the U.S. their home; it's all most have ever known. Yet they face considerable barriers, often live in fear, and exist in the shadows of their communities in order to hide their legal status. In recent years many undocumented youth have made the decision to step out of the shadows and have emerged as activists.
The newest exhibit at Levine Museum of the New South offers an opportunity for the public to learn about the experiences of undocumented Latino youth, and to better understand their predicament.
Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid is a participatory art project, conceived and orchestrated by artist Annabel Manning and organized with the assistance of independent curator Carla Hanzal. Immigrant youth from Charlotte and the Triangle area of North Carolina collaborated with Manning to create portraits, which were then digitally altered to portray the youth's visible and invisible status simultaneously. Monoprints created in workshops with the youth express their complex identities and their determination to become more visible. A grid of portraits symbolizes the sense of empowerment that results from organizing as a group. Interactive and participatory installations, plus video and audio components, actively engage viewers throughout the exhibit.
Compelling and personal, the pieces featured in the exhibit demonstrate how art can be a deliberative and imaginative forum for exploring complex issues about immigrant labor, education, and legal status.
Participants in the project belong to United 4 the Dream, a youth-led advocacy group of the Latin American Coalition, and Immigrant Youth Forum, part of a national network called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. These groups share a commitment to equality for all immigrant youth, regardless of their legal status, and derive their names from the national DREAM Act. Both assist immigrant youth by providing a forum where they can meet, share experiences, become better educated about strategies to navigate their complex status, and gain information about how to pursue higher education.
These young activists want to become contributing members of society and their communities. They want access to higher education. Their lack of citizenship, however, makes them ineligible for in-state tuition. For many, the cost of attending college is prohibitive. In addition, there is the ever-present threat of deportation and families becoming separated.
Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid will be on view at Levine Museum December 21, 2013 through June 29, 2014. It is funded in part through a Special Project Grant from the Arts & Science Council, and is presented as part of Levine Museum's Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Struggles Then and Now, a two-year series of exhibits, programs, dialogues, and new media examining the history and legacies of the Civil Rights Movement and connections to today's struggles for rights among people of all backgrounds.