UPDATE: There will be another DREAMer Kites kite-flying event this Friday, December 7, on the National Mall near the National Monument, from 12 to 4pm. Free and open to all. No kite necessary!
On December 6, there will be a panel discussion at the Art Museum of the Americas featuring the artists and activists behind the event:
Miguel Luciano (Featured Artist)
Favianna Rodriguez (Artist & Cultural Organizer)
Lizbeth Mateo (Undocumented Youth)
William Anderson (Community Organizer)
Francisco Gutierrez (Undocumented Student Activist, Georgetown University)
For more details, see the flyer.
For images of the kite-making workshop, go to the CultureStrike Tumblr.
If you’re used to thinking of the world as divided by national borders, you don’t have to look hard to find a place unconstrained by those divides: just look up. That’s the guiding philosophy behind artist Miguel Luciano’s new project—helping a group of young people take flight above our nation’s capital. This Saturday, as pre-election excitement fills the air, a group of immigrant youth activists will unfurl homemade kites emblazoned with their faces, to soar symbolically over a border fences, detention cells, and a political arena where immigration issues are still invisible.
The kites will be flown over the National Mall and the White House by a group of undocumented youth and self-described DREAMers—immigration reform advocates who emerged in the campaign for the DREAM Act, which would grant relief to undocumented youth. The project is co-sponsored by CultureStrike, Washington Project for the Arts, and the activist network United We Dream. It’s part of a broader program about the overlap of art and activism, called “The Ripple Effect: Currents of Socially Engaged Art.”
The kite project embodies a simple statement: The desire for freedom and dignity is universal, and the trajectory of that basic human impulse can’t be suppressed. The symbolism of art can transcend artificial borders far more easily than people can.
This isn’t Luciano’s first airborne artistic venture. The Puerto Rican-born painter and sculptor launched a similar kite project as part of the anti-military protests at Vieques in 2002, coordinating a beautiful trespass of military boundaries.
“While the kites can physically transcend a fence or border from the sky, they can also address non-physical borders metaphorically,” he tells CultureStrike. “It is a symbolic action to raise our own images into the sky and celebrate our dreams, desires, and indeed our right to fly and be free. These are universal desires, and can be applied to community struggles throughout the world.”
Luciano’s other works have been gritty and whimsical portrayals of urban hybridity: satirical recreations of old poster advertisements for Puerto Rican yams, a souped-up, hot-rod incarnation of a shaved-ice pushcart, and a vintage specimen of egg-laying, chicken-arcade kitsch, upgraded with activist paraphernalia. They’re all pieces of a kaleidoscopic urban vision, depicting a street culture that embraces equal parts joy and hardship.
Luciano says of his diverse portfolio, “Community engagement is a central part of these works. Through all of these projects, I’m interested in engaging notions of play, often as a means of transcending painful histories.”
For Francisco Guttierez, one of the DREAMers participating in Saturday’s event, the protest kite aligns with a historical constellation of spectacular protest in the capital. As a freshman at Georgetown University, the undocuqueer campaigner spent a week walking around barefoot to highlight the plight of undocumented youth. The kite is another way to articulate his protest in physical form: “I knew that this would be a great way to communicate our message: “undocumented and unafraid.” Better yet, I thought, we are communicating this message in the nation’s capital—where Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, and other important figures in civil right[s] history have actively made a difference.”
Following in the footsteps of famous demonstrations in the nation’s capital, the youth will gather this Saturday to turn the sky above Washington into their canvas—showing that you don’t need papers to make your mark.
For details on the event, go to the exhibition page at the Washington Project for the Arts.
Here are photographs of the amazing work of Luciano and the kite flyers.