The recent political laws against immigrants and foreigners has put the United States in deep feeling of agitation. The land of hope and dreams has changed from a safe haven to a hostile place to live.
The international public artist, designer and social innovator Nancy Ann Coyne has decided to homage immigrants and the immigrant past of the USA with her work Speaking of Home, a photographic public artwork transforming four of St. Paul’s famous skyways into an episodic narrative of immigrant experiences, questioning the idea of “home” and what people’s assumptions are for this word.
This public artwork explores the meaning of home for Twin Cities immigrants and refugees through their own family photographs brought from their native country, with accompanying stories. Each enlarged photograph is printed on a translucent scrim and installed in the windows of four connecting 77-foot skyway bridges, which are part of a network of over 5 miles of second-story glass and steel pedestrian walkways over the city’s downtown commercial zone.
These black and white 58 faces will be seen by many commuters and pedestrians passing by, reaching 30 thousand people who use the skyways to go to places throughout the day. The emotionally moving public installation expands to 600 feet and it is accompanied by text panels with people’s biographies, interview excerpts describing what they gave up or what they fled from, and the lives they are living in Minnesota, all accompanied by panels with the word “home” in their native languages.
To create the project, Nancy Ann Coyne pioneeredo the establishment of a new city ordinance which should have permitted her artwork in the 50-year-old skyway system of St. Paul.
Speaking of Home is designed to invert the divide between the native-born and newcomers, situating immigrants as stationary onlookers as the locals pass by and move through the city. Conceived for St. Paul, a sanctuary city, it’s an homage to the Twin Cities’ rich immigrant community––several blocks from the Minnesota State Capital, where legislation concerning immigrant rights is enacted. Nationally, Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar have been outspoken immigration advocates.