The student-run Wesleyan Refugee Project is hosting an exhibit titled “Art in Crisis” through May 22 at the Center for the Humanities. Student organizers, faculty, members of the administration and community members gathered for the exhibit’s opening May 4.
“Art in Crisis” features work by artists within Za’atari Refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, home to over 100,000 refugees. These artists range from professionals who taught art in Syria to youth who were studying modern art to those who newly developed their passion in exile. The work was recently displayed at the Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and will be sold in a silent auction format.
The Wesleyan Refugee Project is a volunteer initiative which centers around three central community outreach efforts, including online tutoring with Syrian refugee students in Turkey and Jordan, helping Connecticut-based refugees fill out subsidized housing and energy assistance applications, and aiding Iraqi refugees in finding U.S. employment via the International Refugee Assistance Program. Pictured is volunteer Elisabeth Arslanoglou ’16.
Event organizer Sophie Zinser ’16, a College of Letters and French studies major and student fellow for the Center for the Humanities, made connections with the Amal Foundation in December 2015. The organization supports refugees and their host communities by offering them access to education.
“I had no idea that months later [Amal and the Wesleyan Refugee Project] would be planning a show together, bringing art from Za’atari here to Wesleyan. We have made it our mission to represent these artists as if they could actually be at Wesleyan,” Zinser said.
Through the generosity of Wesleyan’s Refugee Response Grant, Zinser will travel to Jordan this summer to deliver funds raised at Wesleyan directly to the artists themselves.
Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, Conn., spoke during the opening reception. George was recently featured in The New York Times for taking on a Syrian refugee family bound for Indiana when that state closed their borders while the family was en route. George provided information and context about the refugee experience in the States, and the importance of art and activism within refugee communities internationally.
“Art does not discriminate against borders, in the way that borders discriminate against people. Art is portable, and it carries its ideas with it across the borders,” said volunteer Thafir Elfrouzi ’19, pictured. (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)