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New art exhibit in the Quad Cities highlights sights and sounds of the U.S.-Mexico border

The Figge Art Museum's newest installment includes the "sights and sounds" of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's called Border Cantos and Sonic Border.
Figge Art Museum
The Figge Art Museum's newest installment includes the "sights and sounds" of the U.S.-Mexico border. It's called Border Cantos and Sonic Border.

Border Cantos¦Sonic Border are the two works being presented at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. The exhibit shares the “sights and sounds” of the U.S.-Mexico Border. Sounds will be represented by an original composition created by discarded objects found at the border and sights will be portrayed in a large-scale photography exhibit.

“It is so important for the Quad Cities to have an opportunity to experience this exhibition,” said Figge Executive Director and CEO Michelle Hargrave in a press release. “Art surrounding the Mexican-American border is more relevant than ever and this body of work compels us to put ourselves in the shoes of these migrants so we can attempt to envision their collective journeys in the hopes of more understanding and compassion for their plight.”

The photography by Richard Misrach and the music installation by Guillermo Galindo both focus on humanizing and bringing attention to the lives and experiences at the U.S.-Mexico border. Melissa Mohr, the director of education at the museum, said she wants the diverse population in and around the Quad Cities to feel represented, and connected to their neighbors.

"This exhibition is really a dialogue between the two in artistic and audio ways, visually artistic, and then audio waves that encourage people to explore themes around migration and immigration, and specifically the U.S.- Mexico border, in ways that go beyond what perhaps is more traditionally covered in the press," Mohr explained.

She emphasized how an exhibit such as this can help the diverse community of Davenport and its surrounding areas feel validated and heard. More than eight percent of Davenport identifies as Hispanic or Latino.

Mohr described that diversity as one of the themes the museum is trying to instill, along with humanitarianism, empathy, storytelling, immigration and migration.

"Many people who have come to our community, have come from other regions or other areas within the region, and there are many people who have immigrated from different countries. And so we felt that between these many themes that the exhibition could provide, there was actually a very rich amount that we could be exploring with our community," she said.

"Art has the power to transform lives. Art can be healing, that we meet people where they are, and we recognize that not everyone is going to be at the same place when they enter into this. For some, it will be very personal. And for others, it will be eye-opening."

For those who will be more personally impacted, Mohr said there will be a separate area for quiet reflection and expression, like writing down feelings.

But Mohr doesn't want attendees to simply observe the art, she intends for them to get physically involved. The third portion of the exhibit will be created by those who attend.

As people experience the art installations, the education department of the museum encourages them to pick up a "brick" made of foam. They will then write a kind message on it, and build a wall.

"It sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out," Mohr said as she further explained the concept.

As more people attend the exhibit, they will slowly break down the wall, as they're encouraged to take any foam-brick message that resonates with them. By the end of the four-month run, the wall that divides will be broken apart.

A "story area" is held right next to the exhibition where the Figge Art Museum partnered with students from the multicultural and inclusion program at Black Hawk College. The museum recorded their personal stories of immigration and will air them throughout the exhibition.

On the other side of the exhibit, there is a giant world map where people are invited to leave a mark for where they come from. This will be accompanied by an interactive timeline. (All portions of the exhibition will have labels in Spanish and English.)

"We want to make sure that what's happening within the museum truly represents what's happening outside of our walls," Mohr said. "Even though we are not physically located on that boundary, it is still very important to us to understand as part of our history here, our ongoing history, the history that we're continuing to create."

The exhibit will be open until June 5. And there will be options for free admission, like the free family day on May 15.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines