WE ARE – A Nation of Immigrants

New Haven, CT

Contact Name
Joe Standart
Project Dates
May 14 – September 15, 2018
Placemaking/placekeeping, Event, Cultural Heritage
WE ARE – A Nation of Immigrants is Photography in the service of celebrating the individual, building more aware and compassionate communities, and addressing important issues of our time. The production took place in the spring of 2018 and was installed on major buildings around New Haven and on its historic green. An advisory team was assembled to build public and institutional support, advise on fundraising, finding photographic subjects, finding venues, creating a meaningful opening, and bringing community together. To address the crisis in immigration policy and implementation, the opening consisted of local to national leaders. Senator Blumenthal gave the keynote address. The messaging was amplified by tie-ins with existing events such as the Arts & Ideas Festival
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
WE ARE sought to address the Immigrant crisis while celebrating the historic and present day contributions immigrants make to our communities and country. Our goal of honoring the individual consisted of creating extremely large portraits displayed in prominent places throughout the city, which served to bring the community together, and helped bring immigrants out of the shadows. WE ARE started by honoring them through the subject selection process, and inclusion in a very visible statement of individual significance and dignity. The exhibition was a giant welcome card giving the broader community a sense of recognition and value. By installing the work on one of the country’s most historic greens and on its iconic churches a visible link was made between the immigrants who founded the country and today’s immigrants who are being vilified. New Haven was chosen to reinforce the concept of a sanctuary city, and to support the Mayor and her policies toward immigration. The exhibit served as a catalyst for dialog and awareness about immigration for the more than 1.5 million people exposed to the work through the 70 foot high mural on the Pirelli building along I-95, on the proscenium walls of the stage for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas seen by 250,000 attendees, by congregants for International Refugee Day, by the national gathering of Clergy held in Trinity Church on the Green, by the 800 who attended the opening. Using the rubric developed by Americans for the arts, WE ARE can claim partial responsibility for bringing at least $108,000 into the New Haven community.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The project had a broad and diverse group of supporters and partners, which included:

Joe Standart, President, Portrait of America®,

GENERAL ADVISORS: - organization, outreach, community links:

Jennifer Aniskovich, J.D.,Non-profit Advisor
Duo Dickinson, Architect, Trinity Church Partner

IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE ORGANIZATIONS, Each person provided access to potential subjects and helped navigate permissions and legalities.

Chris George
- Executive Director, IRIS
Ann O’Brien
- Community Engagement, IRIS
Kica Matos
- Junta For Progressive Action
- Director, Immigrant Rights & Racial - - - Justice Center for Community Change,
- Washington, DC
John Lugo
- Director, Unidad Latina en Accion

ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Helped with Permissions, guidance, promotion, and press:

Andrew Wolf
- Director, City of New Haven, Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism
Chad Herzog
- Director, International Festival of Arts & Ideas, He embraced the exhibit placing portraits on the covers of the catalog, on the center stage proscenium and encouraged other programming
Daniel Fitzmaurice
- Director, The Arts Council of Greater New Haven
David Rosenthal
- Creative Director, Mission Design: designed web site and graphic Identity

- The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
- The Committee of the Proprietors Of Common & Undivided Lands in New Haven

CHURCH VENUES: Encouraged the use of the exterior walls of the Churches as part of the exhibits. Helped develop relations with the community.

Rev. Dr. Luk DeVolder
- Rector, Trinity on the Green, New Haven
Rev. Canon Mark K.J. Robinson
- Rector, St. Ann’s Episcopal Parish, Old Lyme, CT
Rev. Bonnie Scott,
- Minister, United Church on The Green
Rev Kev Ewing,
- Minister, Center Church On The Green
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Many organizations in the City of New Haven have made the issues surrounding immigration and refugees a priority for policy development, and community support. These include the Mayor, the Director of the Arts Commission, The Community Foundation, The churches. Refugees and Immigrants are seen as making vital contributions to the community and the city seeks to encourage their presence. New Haven is a Sanctuary city. These and more welcomed WE ARE to the community.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
I have been working in the public art space presenting ”common man” and "Immigrant / refugee" material for the last 12 years. WE ARE was inspired by my travels abroad and feeling that Americans could benefit by exposure to and appreciation for the travails of immigrants, and immigrants could benefit by being recognized as dignified individuals who have and can contribute to our way of life.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
1. Clarify and identify concept, target city, and institutional partners
2. Immerse myself in the local culture
3. Establish budget and fundraising parameters
a. Ford Foundation
b. Kickstarter
c. City based funders
d. Friends outreach
4. Select & photograph subjects
a. Find studio
b. Enlist production team
5. Work on identity – Logo, Social Media presence,
6. Web site design included video and verbal interviews with each of the immigrants and a QR code was created to link the experience at the exhibit to each individuals interview on the web site.
7. Select venues, gain permissions, gain city permissions and access
8. Define timing and link with other local events,
a. Yale Graduation
b. Arts & Ideas Festival, etc.
c. International Refugee Day, June 20
d. National Clergy meeting
e. Etc.
9. Design exhibit
a. Design and build steel frames
b. Design Mural installations, choose buildings, gain permissions
c. Creation of a map and guide to the exhibit along with QR codes linking portraits to individual interview on the web site.
10. Installation day
a. Hire crane, installers for murals
b. Hire installers for Steel frames on green, City Permissions, rental trucks
11. Envision opening and inclusion events for immigrant subjects (Hosted a dinner)
12. Enlist speakers for opening; send invitations, social media and press.
13. Opening
a. Dinner for Refugees & Immigrant photographic subjects
14. Talks, tours, press, etc.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
As we added venues we redesigned the exhibit, the budget, the map of the exhibit.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Endless Obstacles - Some include:
1. Venue permissions
a. Ikea (Perelli) building – permission for Corporate to use the 10 story building as a display area
b. New Haven Green is privately owned – lengthy presentation approval process
2. Funding – Large budget no funds.
3. City Permissions –
4. Permissions from the The Committee of the Proprietors Of Common & Undivided Lands in New Haven to use the Green as our primary venue
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The constant encouragement and know how by the following helped us prevail
Andrew Wolf
Rev. Mark Robinson
Duo Dickenson
Jennifer Aniskovich, J.D.,Non-profit Advisor
Kica Matos, founder of Junta For Progressive Action
Many others
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Take your time, quality of project wins over artificial deadlines.
2. Careful plan including ID funding sources early on
3. Plan for follow up programming

Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The project was given credit by a gathering of city administrators from across Connecticut for helping New Haven as a Sanctuary city have a calm summer as opposed to other sanctuary cities. Organizations and groups used the installation as their visual core and attractions for their events including the Festival of Arts and Ideas. Trinity Church asked that the exhibit be extended to allow the gathering of clergy to experience the exhibit.

Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
As stated in the Press, by the Mayor, by the Director of the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, by th the Director of Culture and Tourism, the Director of The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and countless others, the project met all of the stated goals. All sent their congratulations for making such a positive contribution to the life of the city. There was no negative feedback; a surprise given the scope and scale of the project. In a future project I would expand my goals to include on-going programming.
How did you measure this success or progress?
While our active formal canvasing of attendees fell short of expectations, we constantly took the pulse of those who visited the exhibit. We recorded interviews with viewers. We monitored the TV and press coverage.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
I did not quite expect/understand the depth to which the exhibit gave individual immigrants / Refugees the sense of being welcome, a sense of belonging, in many cases, for the first time since being driven from their homelands.