Similar to the ancient, the present human race is dealing with ‘issues’ due to immigrants and refugees. As an immigrant or refugee, there are so many challenges that one faces with little or no hope for a better tomorrow. We’ve heard of sad tales about how individuals who migrate to other countries are forced to endure pain and suffer different forms of physical, mental or psychological trauma. And with such happenings around us, we, as the human race, have it in us to remember our loved ones - the people close to us that we lose under such circumstances.
Thus, as the US marks the sixth month of zero-tolerance immigration policy, a community in San Ysidro of San Diego, California, has been working on a unique, exquisite art project in the name of giving hope and faith to immigrants and refugees. The campaign which began with an art installation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, had the residents write the names of their loved ones affected by the US immigration policy on ribbons and tie them to a fence. The planned campaign that was spearheaded by the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) gave birth to the idea of having a monument of the Virgin Mary in a remade form of the statue of liberty. The monument would be depicting the Virgin Mary with one arm stretched with a torch in her hand. The purpose of the idea of having the 40 - foot tall statue on Our Lady of Mount Carmel hilltop overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border region was with the intent of welcoming immigrants and refugees headed to the U.S.
Called ‘Welcome the Stranger’, the statue has its one arm outstretched upwards as a symbol for a brighter future to those seeking shelter. Mary mother of Jesus was seen as the perfect idea for having the sculpture because she herself is seen as a refugee. The residents noted that she fled from her family to Egypt as a refugee soon after the birth of Jesus. Her robe IS comprised of perforations which characterizes the universal experience of all migrants and refugees. In its folds, there are different colors which symbolize the hard times. The spots of colors in the folds symbolize moments of kindness in their journeys.
The ‘Welcome the Stranger’ campaign aims at raising funds through crowdfunding which can be dated back to the days when The Lady of Liberty was used to raise funds from the public. It is said that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French, but the US government could not raise the funds needed to create its pedestal. In the year 1884, publisher Joseph J. Pulitzer put out a notice for a fundraiser to pay for the pedestal and base to stand on, and actually had the public donate to the construction. So far, the SDOP project has received 1 million dollars from a private foundation, the California Endowment
Working with SDOP, artist Jim Bliesner, a sculptor and a painter, was commissioned for the work, and in collaboration with art therapist Berenice Badillo, the two discussed with the residents on the idea that brought about the reimaing version of the Statue of Liberty.
“Most of the inspiration came from listening to the residents as well as the congregation, about how emotional this subject is. People were crying, telling their stories,” Blister said. “I couldn’t help but take that away as the primary element in creating the piece.”
It is said that Art has magical powers, with different purposes, true, but amongst all that, who could imagine a piece of art as the Virgin Mary, in the form of the Statue of Liberty standing tall for those seeking shelter and hope for a future? Amazing right? Well there are many ways we remember our loved ones, all are beautiful, but this, this is just ...
Bliesner says that he hopes the statue will provide a meditation place for people. The goal is to have this new version of the Statue of Liberty erected by January 2019.