The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) is the first North American museum to present the deeply stirring work called Safe Passage, 2016 by the wonderful artist/activist Ai Weiwei. Thousands of life jackets worn by Syrian refugees on their dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece have been wrapped around the neoclassical columns on the facade of the MIA building.
It is quite something to see, and actually forces the viewer to THINK about the massive issue of immigration, and who we want to be as a society. The work is the centerpiece of the exhibition that will open this Sunday (2/at MIA called When Home Won't Let You Stay: Art and Migration. I can't WAIT. Art with an activism bent is my favorite, and I've been eagerly anticipating this show.
I'm proud of Minnesota, as everywhere I go there are open minds and open arms. "All are welcome here" signs hang on homes and businesses, and throwing 2,400 refugee life jackets smack dab in the middle of the city is a pretty big statement that we care about immigrants here (where we're all immigrants, aside from our many Native American neighbors). A friend of mine (shout out to an activist hero of mine, Ryan Harvey!) volunteered a few years ago on the island of Lesbos, fishing people out of the water as they tried to make their own safe passage. These life jackets were all given to Weiwei (a refugee himself) from the Mayor of Lesbos, so this work was all the more real for me, as I could picture the people who had worn them.
You'll be hearing about the exhibition in coming days after it opens, but in the meantime, if you're in Minneapolis you really need to swing down 24th Street and see this piece of art and activism for yourself (or watch WCCO News tonight, as I was interviewed about the piece by a reporter as I was taking it all in).
Thanks again to Ai Weiwei, who always blows my mind, and to MIA for bringing this work to the United States for the first time. WOW.