Art Installation Features 400 Suitcases Showcasing Journeys of American Immigrants

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Courtesy photo

Artist Nora Valdez's "Immigration Nation" art installation tells the story of more than 400 US immigrants through suitcases.

An visual art installation opening this week at the Urbano Project called Immigration Nation consists of more than 400 suitcases made by immigrants who came to the US.

Courtesy photo

Nora Valdez's "Immigration Nation" tells the story of immigrants through suitcases that individuals created.

The art installation by Dorchester artist Nora Valdez will be on view at the Urbano Project (29 Germania St.) from May 24 through July 30, 2017. There will be opening reception, free and open to the public, on Wednesday, May 24, from 6 to 8 pm.

“This project is to show that this nation is made mostly by immigrants, and for us to feel proud of where we come from and to celebrate the diversity that makes this country great," said Valdez via press release. "Immigration Nation is a vehicle for immigrants to share their individual journeys using suitcases. Each suitcase will be transformed into a work of art that celebrates individual stories and represents a collective American experience.”

Valdez is originally from Argentina and first began exhibiting her work in 1977. She graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Mercedes San Luis, Argentina in 1982. Her work has been exhibited in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Japan, China, Canada and the US. Click here for her website.

To create the exhibition Valdez held workshops for several months reaching out to people of all ages, asking them to create their own suitcase that showed their own personal immigration story. Valdez led workshops at Urbano Project, Boston Evening Academy in Roxbury, the Woods Mullen Homeless Shelter in Dorchester, the Fenway High School, her own studio and throughout Egleston Square.

Participants painted the inside and outside of suitcases, showcasing words, maps, patches, flags and other graphics. Valdez encouraged people to speak with their family members, use travel documents and create a suitcase that presented their family's journey to the US.

Valdez worked with an amazingly wide array of first and second generation immigrants from countries all over the world. The art installation features suitcases made from immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Poland, Palestine, Germany, Iran, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Trinidad, Venezuela, Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Argentina, Greece, France, Spain, Brazil, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, England, Peru, Bolivia and Israel.

“I was surprised that so many participants were so willing to tell their own stories and pay homage to their parents and families who made the journey to the US. So many who participated were proud to create their own suitcase, sharing  their family’s unique culture,” said Valdez.

Immigration Nation will also feature 100 photographic portraits of local immigrants,  installed in the shape of a suitcase at the exhibition.

Also, Immigration Nation will be part of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s “Bash at the Brewery” 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 17, 2017 from noon to 3 pm.

This art installation is part of the New England Foundation for the Arts' Creative City program. Creative City was launched in 2015 by New England Foundation for the Arts  to support individual artists to enliven neighborhoods and engage communities. The grant program has awarded $318,500 to 33 projects in four rounds of applications. Creative City has also awarded $20,000 to 20 community partners to support individual artists' projects.