Artists Illustrate Plight of Immigrants, Refugees

(Left to right) Mayor Pro Tem Marina Khubesrian, Director of Library, Arts, and Culture Steve Fjeldsted; Sehba Sarwar, author and poet; Jimmy O’Balles, Sanctuary exhibit co-curator; and Roger Ramirez, artist, pose in front of a work by Andrea Gomez that was chosen for the exhibit publicity materials. Photos by Sally Kilby

Hundreds attended the opening reception for Sanctuary, a unique curated art exhibit that began March 25 at the Library Community Room. The crowd was estimated at 350.

The theme of all of the art, prose writing and poetry displayed or read at the event expressed the love, hope and solidarity their creators felt for those forced to leave their homes, according to the program.

Two of the estimated 350 attendees at the Sanctuary exhibit opening reception view two works—“Eagle Feathers” (left) by Ernesto Vasquez and “Daniel’s Power Back up” by Arte Urista.

Works from nearly 50 artists were on display during the four-hour opening. Author and poet Sehba Sarwar also read from her literary works.

The City of South Pasadena; the South Pasadena Public Library; and the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library were among the exhibit sponsors. Co-sponsors included Brooklyn & Boyle newspaper and online magazine for Boyle Heights and beyond; Suvir Art Collective; and the Edward Roybal Foundation. La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes, the Mexican-American museum and cultural center in Los Angeles near Olvera Street, also co-sponsored.

Jimmy O’Balles, an independent curator who said he knows most artists in Los Angeles, and artist Mario A. Hernandez co-curated the exhibit. Those invited to submit were asked to create a piece reflecting the sanctuary theme. O’Balles said that because the artists live in Southern California, 60 percent of the works focus on U.S./Mexico border issues. The formats vary widely.  

Sergio Hernandez of Acton poses with “The Tunnel,” one of two works chosen for the exhibit. In it, people are shown entering a tunnel toward sanctuary. “Chicano History,” a mural he created with three other artists, is currently on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. It was created in 1970, he said, and displayed at UCLA. In 1990 it was taken down and stored until now. This is the first time it has been shown since then.

Resident Gretchen Robinette introduced the speakers at the opening.

“This exhibit speaks to the heart about the plight of immigrants,” she said following the event, “and is of significance to the City of South Pasadena, which unanimously passed an ordinance in October of 2017 declaring South Pasadena a safe and welcoming city for immigrants. They did this in an effort to protect the rights and privacy of all South Pasadena residents.”

The show ran through March 29.  On March 28, Mario Ontiveros was scheduled to discuss his 2017 book, “BACA, Art Collaboration & Mural Making.” This showcases muralist Judith F. Baca and “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” A musical performance by Jimmy Espinoza and Bobby Robles of the 1960s East Los Angeles group Thee Midniters was scheduled for March 29.

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