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ImagiNations is a public art initiative with immigrant youth that utilizes socially engaged art practices to develop cosmopolitical frameworks for cross-cultural exchange.


ImagiNations is an ongoing, collaborative public art initiative that brings to light the most pressing issues immigrant youth face when making a new life in the global city. Produced with participating immigrant high school youth, this project utilizes new media installation design and socially engaged art practices to develop cosmopolitical frameworks for cross-cultural exchange. Collaborating students act as experts and consultants on critical immigration issues from the youth perspective, informing the project’s content and conceptual framework.   
A primary component of this project is a series of site-specific video installations that provide a shared space of aesthetic experience and a forum for public discourse and social gatherings. My Future Is Here is an installation designed to integrate with the physical infrastructure of a high school, utilizing classrooms and projection technologies to transform the building into an experiential and discursive media space that facilitates face-to-face engagement between student collaborators and guests. Visual poetry and personal narratives of migration highlight the central themes of the installation, which focus on identity, representation, interpersonal ethics, and claiming one’s civic and political presence as an immigrant and social actor. A successful pilot version was presented to the public in June 2012 at Flushing International High School in Queens, New York. Developments between 2013-14 will include adapting it to travel to other high schools and public spaces, inviting expanded youth participation and public interaction.            

A second installation to be produced in Spring 2013 will be designed for a public space in Queens and will utilize site-specific video installation design and invite community participation to bring immigrant youth issues to a wider audience. This installation will allow youth to frame the public discussion on immigration based upon their experiences, personal investments, and visions of what is possible for building societies of compassion and inclusion. Site selection will be based upon a location’s social, cultural, and symbolic significance to immigrant communities within Queens.             

Content for video installations will be developed within after school and weekend workshops. I will utilize methods of collaborative storytelling in which personal migration narratives within the global city provide an exploratory space for the making of civic and social personhood. Students will learn video production and editing in order to produce material for their personal migration stories and to create short videos within their community. Other media such as photography, graphic design, and writing will also be introduced to students through project-based learning. 
Workshops will additionally inform the second element of the project, which is an ad hoc public service organization operating under the name Hospitality Services. This element will address various issues that arise in the process of immigration and encourage proactive hospitality toward the stranger. Through socially engaged art practices, this component will aid the newcomer in navigating the social, cultural, and geographic landscapes of a foreign city, while also encourage the development of a deeper interpersonal ethics for a global society. Students will be challenged to think critically and to offer solutions to the issues brought forth. An introduction to art as social practice will provide pragmatic methods to activate their solutions in everyday life. Projects may include creating information cards for the public that encourage convivial encounters with a foreigner, and a youth-authored "Immigrant’s Guide to New York City" that contains advice and tips on important and useful places, as well as ways to foster a healthy quality of living.             

Project Goals              

In working with immigrant youth, ImagiNations will focus on social, intellectual, and spiritual capacity building to foster personal growth, community development, and civic participation. Immigrant youth are poised to be the leaders of our increasingly globalized world, and art always has the potential to catalyze the imagination toward personal transformation and openness to difference. This initiative utilizes pedagogy, video, installation and media design, and intersubjective exchange to mine art’s possibilities to support the personal development and leadership capacities of immigrant youth. It is also through these practices that this initiative will create new public spaces for deliberative democracy, highlighting youth perspectives and welcoming polyphonous conversations about immigration policy and the constitution of a new global ethics.    

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