Why would you stack 150 bricks in a uniform line to symbolize combatting the refugee crisis? Aren’t walls typically intended to keep people out? Well, when artists like Brian Phillips, Karen Maness, Valérie Chaussonent, and Jennifer Balkan are building that wall, suddenly a pile of bricks becomes an expression of individuality rather than a uniform rejection of what lies on the other side.
As tumultuous times continue to wash up on the borders of nations around the world, the reality is that many hundreds of thousands of individuals are finding themselves displaced. Currently, there are 23 million refugees worldwide, and only 1% are actually relocated to a new country. The remainder live in camps for decades, if not the rest of their lives.
This sad truth shocked Georgetown artist Nick Ramos into action. “I realized that the issue was more complicated than I thought,” he said about the refugee crisis. An expat from Brazil himself, Ramos is all too familiar with the struggles of being an immigrant. However, despite his trials and tribulations, Ramos counts himself as lucky. Despite his foreign origins, Ramos has found a home as an integrated member of the Austin art community. As a result, he says, “It’s hard not to feel empathy toward those who might be less fortunate than I. Some might say that I am paying it forward for the opportunities that I have had in this country.”
To help share his good fortune with others while simultaneously considering the gravity of the situation facing our global community, Ramos decided to begin an exploratory art project to “build hope not walls.” To his surprise, in less than a week, his Saturday afternoon idea had transformed into a full-fledged project. “By the following Wednesday, about 50 artists from across the USA had said yes to my idea. The project took on a life of its own,” he remembered.
With so much interest and not enough space to exhibit, he decided to partner with Big Medium and a handful of non-profits to offer some legitimacy to the project. “I thought that there were many worthy non-profit organizations out there in need of help, covering a broad spectrum of services geared towards immigrants and refugees. It was really hard to choose one organization over another, but I decided to work with lesser known organizations that are active in the state of Texas, as well as one organization that works with refugees abroad,” Ramos said. His chosen partnerships are with American Gateways, Casa Marianella, Preemptive Love Coalition and Refugee Services of Texas.
The project has been capped at 150 bricks. Ramos shrugged and offered an explanation for the self-imposed limitation. “Why one hundred and fifty bricks? The number is arbitrary, but it takes a lot of bricks to build a wall.” Each brick will be sold silent-auction style both in person and online.
Contributing artist Brian Phillips summed up the spirit of this project saying, “I feel this project speaks to me because we as artists need to stand up against anything that threatens the beauty of diversity. This project shows that our country was built by people of all colors and creeds.”
The wall will be built and the exhibition will be open from October 13-15.