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Saturday May 28th

DREAMers paint the stories of undocumented immigrants in Durham exhibit

<p>The art of Wilbert Alfonso, among others, is on display at Pleiades Arts in Durham as a part of "DREAMers: a visual conversation about DACA, Deportation Defense, and the American Dream." Photo courtesy of Renee Leverty.</p>
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The art of Wilbert Alfonso, among others, is on display at Pleiades Arts in Durham as a part of "DREAMers: a visual conversation about DACA, Deportation Defense, and the American Dream." Photo courtesy of Renee Leverty.

The Statue of Liberty has welcomed thousands of immigrants into the U.S. for over a century. Now, it also stands in works of art featured in Pleiades Arts that speak to the struggle immigrants to this country still face today.

“DREAMers: DACA, Deportation Defense, and the American Dream” is a visual art exhibit currently on display at Pleiades Arts in Durham. It is a collaboration between the studio, Alerta Migratoria NC and the NC Dream Coalition.

Next to each piece of art is the artist’s statement on the purpose behind the work, or their opinions on the current state of immigration policy. It features over 10 artists from the Triangle, many of whom have been affected by the recent discussion surrounding undocumented immigrants.

Seventy percent of art sales will go toward artists, while 30 percent will go toward the organizations co-hosting the event. 

The project idea came about when Renee Leverty and Daniela Hernández Blanco met at an Alerta Migratoria festival last fall. The two began talking about the gallery and soon decided an exhibition was a great way to expose people to DREAMers and the work that Alerta Migratoria and the NC Dream Coalition do for the community of undocumented immigrants in the state.

Alerta Migratoria is a group that offers advice and aid to undocumented immigrants and their families in North Carolina through collaboration with other local projects. 

“We’re grassroots — we don’t have any budget close to what these nonprofits have that have been here for years,” Hernández Blanco said. “Despite that, none of these nonprofits provide assistance for the undocumented immigrants, who are an integral part of our community. They don’t necessarily work to stop checkpoints in our neighborhoods, or work to get ICE out of our neighborhoods, or work to get our community members back from these places they’ve been taken to. That’s what we do.”

The other organization, NC Dream Coalition, is a group for undocumented youth in North Carolina who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and was formed in response to the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to rescind it. Michelle Valladarez, a member of the coalition and a current DACA recipient, also created one of the pieces in the exhibit, which highlights the importance of undocumented workers in the U.S.

“I just wanted to do something to serve as a reminder of everyone else,” Valladarez said. “Right now, people have been so focused on DACA recipients, on the younger undocumented immigrants. I feel like we can’t forget about the parents, the other immigrants that will be left without protection and the ones that have been fighting this fight a lot longer.”

Luis MacKinney created three pieces for the exhibit. They convey a timeline of a DACA individual. Although he is in the country legally, he was inspired by friends benefitted by the program.

“I don’t paint political art, I just paint what my eyes can see,” MacKinney said. “I just paint the reality.”

Pleiades Arts is located on East Chapel Hill Street in Durham. It is open Thursday-Sunday every week beginning at noon. See their website for specific closing times for each day. The exhibit began on Jan. 4, and will continue until Feb. 4. If you are interested in volunteering with Alerta Migratoria, you can receive more information here.


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