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JMU institute to illustrate immigrant resettlement in Harrisonburg


The Institute for Creative Inquiry in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University has been approved for a $30,000 Grant for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Wendy Ewald: Creating Community project. 

The project will capture the resettlement experiences of 10 immigrant families to Harrisonburg, Virginia, through a five-week collaboration with acclaimed photographer Wendy Ewald. The co-created works will be the focus of a wide range of public programming beginning in fall 2021. 

"The support of the NEA will enable us to connect this world-class artist with the Harrisonburg community at a scope and scale that would not have been possible otherwise," said Daniel Robinson, associate director of ICI. "It shows a real commitment to the positively transformative power of art." 

Ewald has an extensive career that has focused on portraiture and social justice. She invented a new form of photography ideally suited for the Creating Community project in which artist and subject collaborate in the creation of pictures. For over 50 years, Ewald has worked worldwide with children and marginalized communities, enabling them to illuminate their experiences to larger audiences. Ewald teaches her collaborators to use cameras to record themselves, their families and their communities. She also makes photographs within these communities and asks collaborators to mark or write on her images, challenging the distinction between subject and creator. 

ICI has partnered with Church World Service, a faith-based nonprofit resettlement organization, to develop the project and to identify and support participating families, who will be drawn from speakers of the city’s most prevalent foreign languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Tigrinya and Swahili. The families will range from well-established to recent arrivals in order to explore how different generations have experienced the challenges of resettlement. 

The Institute for Creative Inquiry at James Madison University cultivates interdisciplinary collaboration, fostering creative inquiry through team-taught studio seminars, research projects and faculty and student projects. The institute also presents an active program of interactive exhibitions, lectures and discussion. 

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations and develop their capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. 

ICI’s project is among 1,073 projects across America totaling more than $25 million that were selected during this first round of fiscal year 2021 funding in the Grants for Arts Projects funding category. 

Contact Jen Kulju, director of communications and marketing for JMU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, at (540) 568-4394 or for further information, or Daniel Robinson, associate director of ICI, at (540) 568-5656 or 


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Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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