October 28, 2020

During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice. 

On Saturday, Oct. 24, we made our way to Douglas, Arizona and walked across the border into Agua Prieta, Sonora to facilitate a livestream event that was a month in the making. 

Agua Prieta, Sonora Border crossing.

While planning SMoCA’s participation in Roadside Attraction: Now it’s Political, we considered the resources we had as an institution and felt that it was important for us to utilize and share them as a means to amplify voices outside the Phoenix-metro area. Since the pandemic began, virtual programs have opened up boundaries and allowed us to make connections across diverse audiences that in-person programs simply cannot. So, we thought this was a great opportunity to organize our first-ever remote livestream event. We reached out to artist M. Jenea Sánchez, who is from Douglas and often works with artists in Agua Prieta. Jenea organized the event with her collaborators in Las Fronterizas Ensemble: Yvonne Montoya, Paula Ortega, Ammi Robles, Isis América Tovar, and Xanthia Walker. This thoughtfully curated program featured artworks and performances by Alan Rubio, Ballet Folklórico Ángeles de Agua Prieta, and Las Fronterizas. Throughout the event the sun began to set against a section of the Border fence that featured a freshly painted mural by Dulce Lupita Garcia and M. Jenea Sánchez depicting portraits of asylum seekers. As the sun continued to set, Ballet Folklórico Ángeles de Agua Prieta joyously danced the traditions of different Mexican states while Alan Rubio made movements seeming to grow out of the earth. As the sunset came to a close a poem reading was projected on and through the dark slats of the Border fence. All artists involved are tireless collaborators, advocates, and organizers who share a passion to interpret and share the issues and personal stories of those directly affected by Border closure. They stand in solidarity with the dozens of families waiting in Agua Prieta for their right to seek asylum in the United States, which has been suspended in light of the Border being closed. Refugee communities all across the United States/Mexico border are stuck in limbo with very little resources, awaiting in uncertainty.

Agua Prieta community and asylum seekers observing the event.

While we were in Agua Prieta, we spent time with just a few of these families as they gathered to watch the event in person, while many others watched it live via SMoCA’s YouTube. The enthusiastic sense of support and community was apparent and powerful. There was also so much joy and love. It truly was an emotional and meaningful experience. This type of event was a first for all parties involved, so none of us knew exactly what to expect coming into it, but there was a mutual trust amongst us that we were going to make it happen together. Due to the distance and short time period, there were no prior rehearsals. We independently prepared and came together to make it cohesive. It was an authentic, honest event with no censoring or editing.
Press play to view slideshow.

It was important to us to utilize our resources and lend our platform to artists and amplify this community organized event. For us in Phoenix, Agua Prieta feels so far away, but this virtual event helped close that distance and bring us together as one community. It was a special experience that impacted us on a very deep level that we are so grateful to have played a part in. We hope the artwork and the message came through as clearly to our audience as it was felt it in person. It is important to listen to all voices and to be an ally. We recognized coming into this event that as white Americans, we were entering with privilege, which we did not take lightly. This privilege became more evident as we crossed back into the United States. But this is not about us. It is not our story to tell. So please, watch the full event here and really listen. They are speaking loud and clear.

Entry by Julie Ganas and Laura Spalding Best

Julie Ganas, curator of programming and Laura Spalding Best, exhibitions manager.

Please visit the following links for more information about the artists and organizers of the event.

Explore more entries from our Museum Musings series.

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