Planting in the Sky: Exhibitions as Space-Making in Diaspora

Photo Credit Sarah Dawson McClean

Written by Michelle Lin, Artist Growth Program Director 

When we opened the ARTogether Center just over a year ago, we knew this would be an exciting chance to set down roots, to nurture even deeper collaborations with immigrant and refugee communities. This was our first physical space where we could host our own art exhibitions. How would we approach this work uniquely with ARTogether’s mission in mind, to build compassionate communities that would continue to flourish?

In our January 2024 show “We Plant Our Feet in the Sky,” our 2023 Mentorship Hub collaborated on a multimedia exhibition exploring how their imaginations cannot be contained by borders. The cohort artists manifested a space that was welcoming of diasporic and queer identities, in their full complexities. They worked together for months to articulate the theme: If diasporic communities have to face rootlessness, then they would declare our roots to be within the boundless sky instead. 

Photo Credit Sarah Dawson McClean

As an organization working with immigrants and refugees whose families have been displaced from their home countries, we understand the significance of having access to space. Especially within the Bay Area, where BIPOC residents and communities are at constant risk of displacement. Because of this, group exhibitions become especially important as a collectivist space–a gallery becomes more than just white walls, but a declaration of a community’s solidarity and existence that cannot be silenced. 

Our most recent exhibition “Y(our) Legacy: Liberation For All Of Us’echoes the importance of community by celebrating the LGBTQIA+ immigrant/refugee artists from Sen Mendez’s latest “Y(our) Legacy” workshops held at the ARTogether Center. In the face of increasing anti-trans hate and injustices in the States, Sen Mendez curated a space for participants to express their narratives of joy, hope, and urgency to promote a more equitable world. 

Photo Credit Sarah Dawson McClean

Starting April 6th, we will be hosting “Dalit Dreamlands: Toward an Anti-Caste Future,” an exhibition curated by Manu Kaur in partnership with Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA), Discostan, and the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC). Dalit Dreamlands will be the first queer Dalit-centered space to exist in California, bringing together over 30 multiply marginalized artists from Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan, Afro-Indian, Indo-Caribbean, and Muslim communities to explore queer and trans caste abolitionist futurisms.

Through sustained partnerships with artists, we hope to co-build exhibitions that live long beyond their exhibiting dates. We dream that what occurs within our walls can be extensions of powerful movements that have existed before us, and that will continue to grow after.  

May the ARTogether Center continue to grow as a site of homemade belonging, where conversations can fuel the change we need to see in the world.

Photo Credit Sarah Dawson McClean



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