Artists Respond: Immigration

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Cara Megan Lewis of the 34,000 Pillows Project joined us to educate our community on the topic of immigration & the detention centers in the US.

In 2009, to demonstrate its priority to enforce immigration law, the US Congress mandated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintain a quota of 34,000 detained immigrants per day in its 250 facilities around the country. The mandate also known as “the bed quota” inspired Díaz Lewis’ participatory artwork where pillows created from clothing donated by undocumented immigrants, prior detainees, and their allies form a collective patchwork of individual experiences.

Each pillow is priced and sold at $159 to reflect the average amount of taxpayer money spent each day by Congress to detain one person. 100% of the proceeds for this project support the efforts of national and local immigration organizations whose efforts are dedicated to revealing the injustices of the detention centers and to restoring human dignity to those formerly detained (such as Human Rights Watch, Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, KC for Refugees, Aranda Family Emergency Relief Fund, Camino Nuevo Charter School, and Freedom for Immigrants).

The workshop is an important facet of the project and participants learn about the issue, while designing a pillow which is later sewn together by Díaz Lewis. This experience heightens one’s connection to the issue, implicates the viewers in one’s role, and serves to emancipate the spectator as one physically becomes part of an imagined solution.

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To join a detention visitation group: https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org

To purchase a Díaz Lewis pillow or to host a public gathering of your own: https://www.diazlewis.com/34000-pillow

To donate to international Association for Refugees: https://www.iafr.org

Madi Reimer