Last weekend, we welcomed ten extraordinary people to be mentors in our Refugee Youth Program. These men and women will work with the teens in a number of ways. Some will meet one-on-one with a youth to provide friendship and guidance. Others will offer academic support. And still others will host special projects. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew falls into the third category.
Annu is a Professor of Art at the University of Rhode Island and teaches courses in photography and video animation. Over the next few months, she will be organizing virtual tours of art exhibits for our trainees, introducing them to the visual arts and encouraging them to explore their own creativity. This week, Annu took the youth on their first virtual tour of the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts in Providence. She introduced them to Claudia Ruiz Gustafson, the curator of a photo exhibit entitled "Crossing Cultures: Family, Memory and Displacement." The exhibit looks at immigration through the use of vintage family photographs, exploring the meaning of home during times upheaval and displacement.
The youth were fascinated by the photographs that depicted vanishing ways of life merging with new traditions and cultural identities associated with life in America. They were especially interested when Claudia told them that her studio was located on "her couch." It was important for them to know that art can be created anywhere, even in their homes during lockdown.
We are grateful to Annu for volunteering her time to introduce the youth to art that honors the cultural upheavals and blended identities they have experienced in their own young lives. We hope her tours will encourage them to engage in their own creative efforts. Especially since all you need is a couch!