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Philly Honors the Experiences of Our City’s Young Dreamers, Refugees, and Immigrants with Brilliant Installation in Center City

October 8, 2017

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram Stories, you likely saw my posts on those platforms about this incredible installation last month, but alas I’ve been a bit backed preparing to launch my podcast that I just finished editing these photos for the blog. Luckily, this installation is up for the next two months, so you’ll have plenty of time to see it, if you’re just hearing about it now!

In early Septmeber, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture installed large banners all around the Municipal Services Building in Thomas Paine Plaza (at 15th street and JFK boulevard) that explore and honor the immigrant experiences of many young Philadelphians. The public art installation, titled An Immigrant Alphabet, features the work of artist Wendy Ewald (photographed above) in collaboration with Northeast High School students, and it will remain up through December 2017!

Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is a Philly-based organization dedicated to presenting and teaching Arab culture through the arts and language. Wendy Ewald is an internationally renowned photographer who has collaborated for over forty years in art projects with youth and adults worldwide — from South Africa, India, Morocco, Palestine, Israel, Holland, Mexico, and Colombia, to numerous cities and rural communities within America. Wendy’s known for her documentary investigations of places and communities, probing questions of identity and cultural differences.

Their installation was created during the spring of 2017, when 18 Northeast High School students reflected on their immigrant experience through a collaboration with Wendy Ewald. The students chose words to represent letters of the alphabet that gave insight into the complexities of immigration in America, then they worked with Wendy to create photographs in the school courtyard.

Wendy and Al-Bustan worked with students from Northeast High School because it’s the largest and most ethnically diverse public school in Philadelphia where 59 languages are spoken! This school not only reflects the rapidly changing community of the Northeast, but is often referred to as a “microcosm” of Philadelphia’s growing diversity.

The An Immigrant Alphabet installation also comes with a series of free participatory events, including weekly Arabic classes, that go on through December 2017. Be sure to learn more about those events here!

Below, explore more photos of the installation, and hear from the artist herself, as well as from Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture’s Founder and Executive Director Hazami Sayed, in a short video:


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