Nov 2

Messages to Our Neighbors billboards empower Philadelphia

by: Ilse García Romero

There’s still time to check out the billboards that were created as part of Mural Arts Education department’s wonderful initiative, Messages to Our Neighbors. This past summer, artist Aram Han Sifuentes worked with high school students to explore the intersection of citizenship, immigration, and belonging.

Messages to Our Neighbors: Take A Step Back So You Can Take A Step Forward © 2021 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Aram Han Sifuentes & Art Education Students, 2nd & Norris Streets. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Inspired by Aram’s ongoing project about public demonstration and open sourced activism, The Protest Banner Lending Library, Messages to Our Neighbors included protest banner making that uplifts young people’s concerns about their world, as well as the creation of citizenship test samplers to highlight the arduous process of becoming a U.S. citizen. These banners were installed at the Rail Park, blocks away from students’ summer classroom, and have been translated into these beautiful billboards throughout the city to amplify the voices of youth and immigrants, both of which often go unheard.

Some of the phrases that the students came up with include:

  • Tired of Waiting for Permission to Call America Home
  • You are Cared for and Loved No Matter Where you are From
  • Imagine What Our Country Would Look Like If Our Government Didn’t Spend So Much on the Military
  • You Are the Future, Don’t Repeat the Past
  • Fight Ignorance, Not Immigrants

Messages to Our Neighbors: Remember You Are Always Special © 2021 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Aram Han Sifuentes & Art Education Students, Cottman & Tyson Avenues. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Aram Han Sifuentes creates socially engaged and materially rich projects that are accessible to those who are disenfranchised, particularly dispossessed immigrants of color. Sifuentes’ values directly relate to those of Mural Arts’ as we also strive to make resources accessible and give a voice to underserved citizens in Philadelphia. Many members of these communities are people of color and immigrants or refugees, who have been greatly impacted by both their sociopolitical status and the global pandemic. 

This project was proudly led by BIPOC and women artists: Sifuentes as the main artist, and teaching artists Sarah Kolker and Carolina Gomez. They each have personal stories and connections to immigration and citizenship that have shaped their work.

 

Messages to Our Neighbors: Tired of Waiting For Permission to Call America Home © 2021 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Aram Han Sifuentes & Art Education Students, Castor & Tyson Avenues. Photo by Steve Weinik.

With this project, Sifuentes stresses the importance of continuous conversations on how immigration policy is a moving target, citizenship is difficult to achieve, and belonging to a place, a land, or a people is an ongoing negotiation. Our hope with this project and other Mural Arts initiatives is to make art accessible to everyone and make all folks feel welcome and heard. We know that these are challenging times for all, and we see the courage and resilience of our communities when faced with adversity.

This initiative was made possible with the support of our partners, SEAMAAC, Clear Channel, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Friends of Mifflin Square Park, as well as our funders, Philadelphia Youth Network, the Lincoln Financial Foundation, the Dolfinger McMahon Foundation, Glenmede Trust Company. 

Don’t miss these billboards while they are still up!

Last updated: Nov 4, 2021

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