Wednesday, March 28, 2007Home

Ellis Island Museum presents a photography exhibition

Anyone who has their roots in late 19th to early 20th Century immigration, or who has at least seen The Godfather, Part II, associate many images, real or imagined, with Ellis Island, gateway to the United States of America. The first sighting of the Statue of Liberty that turned weariness into awe and new hope for countless tired individuals and families is just one common memory still shared by so many.

Newly renovated and restored, the south side of Ellis Island has changed dramatically from the state of disrepair represented in the photographic series by Stephen Wilkes, which has since been released in a beautiful hardcover book. With his images of the psychiatric and medical wings of the Island, taken in 1999, the photographer helped secure $6 million in funding for the new facility. Wilkes' image serve as both a record of the Ellis Island that was, and a call to preserve a landmark that has become intertwined with the country's collective imagination.

A photography exhibition is now on view at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, and will run through June 3, 2007. "Becoming American: Teenagers and Immigration" by Barbara Beirne will enjoy a four-year tour sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibitions (SITES).

From SITES' website:

"The strongest connection I have with China, my native land, is through my parents. I have seen the pain of leaving their beloved land upon which their memories are deeply rooted. I have seen their struggles to learn the English language and to survive in America. But I have also been witness to the joys of accomplishment, not only for myself, but for my family as well. We bring our culture with us and share it. Truly, it has been a bittersweet journey,” says teenager Lili Shek.

Shek and 50 other teens are the subject of photographer Barbara Beirne’s recent survey of new immigrants’ experiences. Some stories sparkle with optimism: “Now I can go to school. This country is good,” proclaims Diana Ingabire, 15. Other comments reflect the hardships of being culturally different. “After the terrible events at the World Trade Center,” 16-year-old Sohale Mehrmanesh muses, “I’m afraid that all Arab people will be suspected of terrorism.” Many of the teens offer poignant observations about their new country. “I was surprised that there were so many homeless people living in this city. How could this happen in America?” asks Guinea native Mawa Fofana, 17.

Click here for a list of exhibitors and dates.

Other SITES Exhibitions are still available to be booked, some for the coming year. Click here for details, and let your local artspace know!

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