As Americans debate a slew of important items, immigration stands at the top of any list.
Here in Westport, we’re far removed from our southern border. The Wall is an abstraction — not a reality — to most of us.
But — for one reason or another — the immigrant experience resonates with nearly every Westporter.
This month, several events shine historical, artistic, literary and nuanced lights on a variety of immigration stories.
On Friday, January 18 (6 to 8 p.m.), Saugatuck Congregational Church opens an intriguing exhibit.
“Art Across Borders” features the work of 18 area artists, from Guatemala, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. All migrated to the US. Each will share his or her own story, through art. The bold, emotional exhibit is curated by Rene Soto, owner of a gallery with the same name in South Norwalk.
“Lots of people come to the US — and to this area — for better lives,” says Saugatuck Church Arts Committee member Priscilla Long. “And many of those people express themselves through art.”
Saugatuck Church has long been concerned with social justice. This show is a natural outgrowth of that commitment. The exhibit will remain up for a month. Click here or call 203-227-1261 for more information.
The following week, a different house of worship offers a different program, on a different immigrant experience.
In June 0f 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi terror on the SS St. Louis were within sight of Florida. Heartbreakingly, they were denied safe haven by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Canada also refused entry.
The captain returned the ship to Europe, where countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and France accepted some refugees. Many, however, were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries. Historians estimate that a quarter died in death camps during World War II
Three passengers who survived — Judith Steel, Sonja Geismar and Eva Wiener — will be in Westport on Thursday, January 24. At 7 p.m., Chabad on Newtown Turnpike will screen “Complicit” — a film about the SS St. Louis’ ill-fated journey. The trio will participate in a post-film Q-and-A, led by its creator/producer Robert Krakow.
Click here for more information. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students.
Meanwhile, all month long — and into February — the Westport Library sponsors WestportREADS. This year’s book is Exit West. Novelist Mohsin Hamid follows 2 refugees who — against all odds — find life and love while fleeing civil war.
WestportREADS activities include book discussions, a conversation with migration experts, art exploration, world dance instruction, storytelling, music, genealogy research, and a presentation by a Syrian refugee family sponsored by members of the Westport community.
Click here for a complete calendar, and full details.