The immigrant experience is embedded within the cultural history of America and remains the focus of global contemporary politics. At a moment when the world contends with a devastating refugee crisis, and the 2016 U.S. presidential election hinges on border policies, the social, political, and economic complexities of immigration has never been more pronounced.
Occupying the place between the physical and the imagined, art parallels the condition of our world and provides a language to navigate our deeply abstracted and diverse truths. The artists on this panel represent a diversity of disciplines and perspectives, but all contend with the complexities of the transnational experience. What does it mean to be an artist and an immigrant? How can art aid in cultural placemaking? How can we utilize the language of art to shift emotional and political perspectives?
Migguel Anggelo is breaking barriers on the American stage, creating unique works that are reflective of the multicultural, multi-lingual, changing demographics of our country and times. The Brooklyn-based, Venezuelan born artist began his career at 13 as Pinocchio in a South American touring production of the Broadway musical. He trained for a dozen years in classical ballet, studied voice at the Conservatory of Music in Cologne, Germany, has written music throughout all of his journeys as an immigrant in several countries, and has released two albums, the most recent being, La Casa Azul (co-written/produced by musical director, Mau Quiros and mixed by Grammy Award-winner Felipe Tichauer). The collaborative trio of Anggelo, Quiros and Drake are currently at work on a new music-theater work entitled: The Suitcase Project, developed in part during a BRICLAB Residency at BRIC (Brooklyn, NY).
Kia Arriaga was born in Cuernavaca Morelos, México. She is a blacksmith, designer and object maker. She's also an Aztek dancer, a member of the Aztek group Kalpulli Tlahuikayotl; where she fills a role as an active participant of rescuing the traditional ways of the original people of Mexico. Her main artistic influences are drawn from Aztek culture, religious art, decorative arts and goth subculture and fashion. She has a fascination with making installations, and she has been particularly in love with the Day of the Dead Ofrendas from a very young age.
Chido Johnson is a Detroit-based artist, the co-founder for the Zimbabwe Cultural Centre in Detroit and a recent Knight Foundation grantee. He is a 2009 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow and a 2009 MacDowell Colony Fellow. Johnson was born in Nyadiri, Zimbabwe. He received Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in sculpture in 1996 and painting, with a minor in drawing, in 1997 from the University of Georgia, Athens. He obtained his Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from the University of Notre Dame, IN in 2000. Currently, he is the Section Chair of Sculpture at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. He has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally.
Rola Nashef was born in Lebanon and raised in Michigan. She is a writer, director, producer and multi-media artist who draws upon her experience in the arts and involvement in Detroit’s diverse communities as a catalyst for creative expression and social movement. Named Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Cinema" (2011), Nashef has received the Kresge Arts in Detroit Award (2014) for her long-standing work, and has been awarded the Adrienne Shelley Director’s Award (2014) for her sophomore feature film, Nadia’s House, currently in development. Nashef’s debut, award-winning feature, Detroit Unleaded, holds its place as the first Arab-American rom-com portraying second generation Arab characters specific to Detroit & Dearborn.
Gracie Xavier is the Director of Corporate and Economic Development Strategy at Global Detroit, where she works to connect Global Detroit programs and the immigrant talent they serve to Detroit’s corporate community and economic development infrastructure. This includes helping to lead the organization’s international student retention (GTRI) and skilled immigrant integration initiatives. Gracie received dual degrees in psychology and social work from Florida State University, and a MFA in Community Art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Recently, Gracie debut her solo art exhibition at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD featuring her project, Cutz: Black Men in Focus which seeks to promote positive images of men of color through the lens of the barbershop. Gracie is currently a Detroit Revitalization Fellow, a program of Wayne State University.