Figge Art Museum explores the US-Mexico border in an exhibition | Arts and theater

Upon entering the Figge Art Museum Katz gallery, it’s not the photos lining the walls or the unique instruments displayed on white plinths that instantly grab your attention – it’s the music.

Sounds of tapping, pinching, and resonant rhythms fill the air, creating an atmosphere that feels vast and ageless, transporting you away from the dreary Iowa winter. Coupled with larger-than-life photos of stark desert landscapes and evidence of extensive human movement across its surface, the exhibit tells the complicated story of the US-Mexico border region.

“Border Cantos | Sonic Border,” a traveling exhibition created by photographer Richard Misrach and composer and artist Guillermo Galindo, opens at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport, on Saturday and will run until the 5 June.

“It will be an incredible immersive experience for our audience and it will help our visitors watch, listen and learn about these complex issues surrounding the border,” said Michelle Hargrave, Executive Director and CEO of the Figge Art Museum.

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Galindo recorded the music played in the exhibit – a four-hour piece – on instruments he created using materials found at the frontier, which are on display in the exhibit. Photos from Misrach show different scenes around the border, from abandoned sections of fences to a lone barrel filled with water for those crossing the desert.

In addition to the main exhibit, the Figge coordinated programming to encourage visitors to engage with the exhibit and their own feelings about immigration and humanity.

People will be able to tell their own migration story on a large world map in the Learn to Watch gallery, as well as read the stories of students who attend Black Hawk College. Students from the Creative Arts Academy have also been inspired by the exhibit to create their own works of art, which are displayed in an adjacent room.

A wall made of foam bricks, each carrying a message of strength and connection, will be installed in the lobby where people can add bricks. That will constantly change, said Figge’s director of education, Melissa Mohr.

This exhibit enabled many partnerships, Mohr said, from student tours to educational programs to artist presentations. Visit the Figge website to learn more about the events.

“Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of everything we do,” said Mohr.

With the exhibit and programming developed alongside it, Mohr said Figge’s education team had identified some themes they wanted to convey, Mohr said: migration, immigration, humanitarianism, empathy and narration. These are ideas that can bring people together, and by talking about them, they can make both Figge and the community a safer and more inclusive space.

“We all often face obstacles in our lives, whether it’s things being forced upon us or difficult choices, or obstacles based on our demographics or nationality,” Hargrave said. “It’s really an opportunity to reflect on those barriers, the barriers that we’ve encountered, which ones are real, which ones were imagined, and how might we dismantle them.”

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