The Immigrant Yarn Project (IYP) is pleased to announce a new initiative to provide support to immigrant children, individuals and families through a partnership with global nonprofits The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and The International Rescue Committee (IRC). Proceeds from the sale of 25 select works from Immigrant Yarn Project will be donated to these organizations working to provide essential services and support to immigrants at the border and throughout the United States, transforming these representational works of art into a vital resource. Works are available for sale through the Immigrant Yarn Project website, https://immigrantyarnproject.org/buy-a-totem.
Founded in 2017 by artist and activist Cindy Weil, IYP is a community public art collaboration and one of the largest works of yarn-based art in the country, celebrating the beauty of difference and the profound contributions that immigrants have made to our society. First installed at San Francisco’s Fort Point National Historic Site on March 8, 2019, the exhibition consisted of countless yarn-based squares, pompoms and blankets collected from 600 contributors in the US representing countries from around the world. Each fiber work was then stitched together to create over 80 sculptural totems in varying heights, serving as a physical manifestation of the people who contributed and the places they are from in a bold and beautiful metaphor depicting the collective immigrant experience.
“The story of fiber arts in America mirrors our immigration narrative,” says Weil, herself a child of an immigrant. “A relative might pass down the knowledge of fiber techniques learned in their country of origin, bringing that knowledge with them to the U.S. when they immigrated and passing it down like a family recipe. This made woven fiber a meaningful medium for IYP.”
Following the success of the Fort Point exhibition, Weil received numerous requests from museums and institutions wishing to exhibit the IYP. Instead, she decided to use the totems as a way to give tangible help the needs of the people that the project represents. Weil hand-selected 25 of the Golden Gate Park totems to be available for sale to help raise funds for RAICES and IRC, two global organizations whose whose missions are to provide aid and support to immigrants and refugees.
Weil continues, “Art can do more than just reference social injustice, it can become a physical act of social good. For this next phase of IYP, we asked ourselves, ‘What can we really do to make a difference in someone's life?’. By putting money towards the organizations providing frontline services and support to immigrants in peril at the border and across the country, we aim to make a positive impact.”
Following the Migrant Protection Protocol order in the summer of 2019, the number of immigrants held in detention centers or forced to wait in Mexico for immigration hearings surged. Many were without legal means. RAICES and IRC stepped in, providing invaluable legal aid and free resources. Because of their outstanding contributions and tireless work, IYP is thrilled to support RAICES and IRC with this ongoing partnership.
“Artist communities are places of empathy and outreach and we have always relied on them to embrace our shared vision for a safe and secure future for all immigrants and refugees,” says Tai Moran, Associate Vice President of Development for RAICES. “We are so pleased to be working with Immigrant Yarn Project in particular; I know that Cindy has devoted her time to artistic endeavors promoting tolerance and a sense of shared community and future.”
Proceeds from the sale of IYP totems will also go towards IRC’s commitment to helping newly arrived refugees with housing, employment, and benefits, as well as navigating health insurance, enrollment in English classes, cultural orientation, and referrals to internal and external support.
“We at the International Rescue Committee acknowledge the significant contributions of immigrants to the creation of American culture through all academic, creative and cultural pursuits,” says Karen Ferguson, Ph.D., Executive Director, IRC, Northern California. “We are proud to offer support for people around the world facing war and persecution who seek a home safe from harm. The Immigrant Yarn Project is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the richly diverse tapestry that immigration brings and to highlight how immigrants in need of our help as a haven in their darkest times, give back through such a gift of joy and beauty.”
The Immigrant Yarn Project received hundreds of contributions from around the country, including children, members of the homeless community in Los Angeles, members of the SF Men Knit group in San Francisco’s Castro District, and even from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, herself an immigrant. For more information on IYP, and to purchase a totem, please visit https://immigrantyarnproject.org/buy-a-totem.