Latino immigration experience explored in new exhibition

Somos Uno

The latest aspect of Raoul Deal’s project, “Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá (From Neither Here Nor There),” is an art exhibition that begins March 15 with a 5 p.m. opening reception in the Latino Arts Gallery, 1028 S. 9th St.

The exhibition is part of the Peck School of the Arts’ Year of the Arts celebration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and also dovetails with the “Print: MKE 2013” conference. The Latino Arts Gallery is open to the public 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, for a suggested donation of $1.

Raoul Deal in his studio

“Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá” is a collection of large woodcut prints based on interviews with members of the local Latino immigrant community. Deal, a senior lecturer in the Peck School’s Department of Art & Design, has been audio-recording the experiences of Milwaukee’s immigrant Latino population for a year and a half.

He also researched images and texts about immigrant rights movements, and how printmaking has contributed to the immigration movement in other parts of the country. He has carried out the project with undergraduate research assistants working through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP).

The oral histories also were the basis of Deal’s presentation of UWM’s 43rd Annual Morris Fromkin Memorial Lecture in October 2012. (For the first time, the lecture was presented off-campus and was given at Latino Arts Inc.)

As artist-in-residence for UWM’s Cultures and Communities Program, Deal has often given students the opportunity to work and learn in community settings. He became interested in oral history while working in Milwaukee’s Walnut Way community with Cheryl Ajirotutu, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and associate professor of anthropology.

Dream Act

Dream Act

Deal’s teaching at UWM also helped inspire his research. “Each semester for the past seven years, I have taught American Art and Culture here at UWM. The course has made me keenly aware of the cyclical repetition of history. The proliferation of anti-immigrant sentiment in the political rhetoric and popular images at the turn of the 20th century is similar to what we hear and see today.”

Deal’s interest in exploring Latino immigration issues in Milwaukee stretches back to 1998, when he first arrived in the city from Mexico, and worked as an art specialist and substitute teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools.

“In that capacity, I traveled around the city, often finding myself assigned to ESL classes and working with children from recent immigrant families,” he says. “As a fluent Spanish speaker, I was sometimes able to serve as a link between the two cultures.

“At the same time, I was observing my own 8-year-old daughter as she grappled with being Mexican in Shorewood. Even in progressive Shorewood, we were surprised to encounter incidents of bigotry and anti-Latino sentiment that strengthened our [family’s] resolve to work for structural change.”

“Ni De Aquí, Ni De Allá (From Neither Here Nor There)”

Deal’s wife, Dinorah Marquez, is the director of the award-winning Latino Arts Strings Program at the United Community Center, and has also helped with the interviews for his latest project, many of which have involved the families of her students.

The exhibit will serve as the point of departure for an art project with Bruce Guadalupe Community School (BGCS). Students there will work with Deal to produce images and text about their own family’s immigration experiences.

This activity is part of the ALMA initiative, a Department of Education grant between partners UWM and the United Community Center, coordinated in the Department of Art & Design by Assistant Professor Christine Woywod. It will also be the focus of an Art Education workshop in May, conducted by Associate Professor Laura Trafi-Prats and Assistant Professor Rina Kundu, that will explore the use of art to teach about immigration issues.

“Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá” was funded in part by the 2012 Fromkin Research Grant and Lectureship. The grant encourages and assists UWM scholars in all fields of study to conduct research on individuals, groups, movements and ideas, in the Americas and elsewhere, which have influenced the quest for social justice and human rights in the United States.