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Video by 24 Fotogramas, Photos by Craig Lowy
After the election, I (Jess) was thinking a lot about how to connect my artistic work with the current political climate. The weekend after Trump’s inauguration, I took a young friend to the playground in Brooklyn. We ran into one of her Kindergarten classmates and his dad, a Latin American immigrant. As the kids ran off to play, one of them hopped over the fence around a tree and they began to play around and through it. I considered how the kids didn’t care about the differences between them, or their different cultural backgrounds, and wondered whether we could use giant puppets to recreate that same spirit of curiosity, turning the infamous “wall” into an object of play.
Ana jumped immediately on board, and suggested we involve the local community in the puppetry construction and performance. Our network connected us to Zulema Rodriguez in Phoenix and Stephanie Bermudez and Raul Leyva from Nogales. The project grew from one puppetry performance into a two-day binational festival including an art exhibition, a block party, and a concert. We were joined by the filmmakers from 24 Fotogramas who are making a documentary feature film about the project and the community.
After learning about giant puppetry construction from expert Anne Cubberly, we are ready to bring the puppets, festival, and workshop to life! We are so excited to help show the world the truth about life at the border, and the incredible community that comes together there.
About the Event
Flor is fifteen foot tall; she is from Sonora. Toby is fifteen foot tall; he is from Arizona. Flor and Toby are meeting for the first time this November in Nogales, where the US/Mexico border wall runs through the middle of town. Toby and Flor will transcend all kinds of boundaries and go whatever distance is necessary to unite. Let them guide you to see if it is possible to see ourselves reflected in our neighbors and let our humanity take us Beyond The Wall.
The festival will take place on November 24th-25th in Nogales Sonora / Arizona, bringing together local artists and entrepreneurs through an art exhibition, concert, and a block party. Events will happen on both sides of the border, and will be family friendly and open to all. The festival will culminate with a group of 15-foot tall puppets, created and operated with participants from the local community, bringing the crowds on both sides together in a moment of cultural unity.
Participants will join us for two workshops where we’ll discuss the unique culture of the borderlands and life in proximity to the wall, then transpose those unique experiences onto the puppets. The project is the subject of a documentary film by 24 Fotogramas, and a short viral video will be released online in early 2018. The puppets, viral video, and film will become a giant-sized canvas on which the community can create a permanent record showing the world Ambos Nogales - One Nogales.
“15 Foot Puppet On Display at Governor’s Island” – BroadwayWorld
[VIDEO] “Talking with Stephanie Renee Bermudez about the History of Nogales” – George Torres, Sofrito For Your Soul (Blog)
[VIDEO] “Beyond the Wall with Flor” – Chad MacDonald, I Loved To Wake Up In the Morning When Barack Obama Was President (Blog)
About the Team
Our leadership team includes experienced artists and activists from Nogales, Phoenix, New York, and Mexico City. You can read more about the team here, but in brief:
- Lead artist and producer Jess Kaufman has created and produced original work for children and adults in New York, London, and Scotland. Her writing has been published in Theatre and Performance Design and ArtsPraxis. She has an MA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
- Lead artist and puppeteer Ana Díaz Barriga is a puppeteer who has created and performed original work in Mexico, the US, England, Scotland, France, and the Czech Republic. She has an MA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
- Organizer Zulema Rodriguez has worked on immigration reform with the SEIU implementing nationwide field policy, and with the Center for Community Change as the Deputy National Director concerning mass incarceration.
- Nogales Arizona Organizer Stephanie Bermudez works for economic revitalization and small business growth in Nogales. She is a member of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber Foundation, serves as Program Manager the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Tucson, and founded the popular Startup Unidos podcast.
- Nogales Sonora Organizer Raul Leyva is a respected Sonoran political journalist, and the coordinator of the Colectivo Cultural Taco de Perro, a local arts organization.
We are also partnered with several outstanding local arts and activism organizations including Voices From the Border, Movimiento Teatro por la Dignidad, Festival de la Bestia, and Teatro para el Fin del Mundo
Q: Is my contribution tax-deductible?
A: Yes! All donations are fully tax-deductible in the U.S., minus the value of any rewards you select. The exact tax-deductible amount of your gift will clearly stated during the checkout process.
Q: I'd like to donate by check. Can I?
A: Yes! Please contact us and we will send you the details. If you represent a foundation or charitable trust, let us know and we will also provide the necessary tax ID number. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Q: Is this event legal?
A: Yes! We are coordinating with the appropriate authorities to ensure a safe, legal event for everyone. We have already acquired the necessary work visas for our team, and official permission to perform at the wall.
Q: What’s Fractured Atlas?
A: Fractured Atlas is a nonprofit arts organization that’s serving as our fiscal sponsor. By fiscally sponsoring us, they make our donations tax-deductible and offer a ton of other useful services. Fractured Atlas’ fees are the lowest available and we have access to donated funds right away, which helps us plan and prepare. Plus, since they are a 501(c)3, their cut goes towards helping other artists! Read more about Fractured Atlas here.
Risks and Challenges
A project at this scale in a contentious location carries risks: here’s how we’re handling them.
· We have consulted immigration law experts, Border Patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security Cultural Affairs Division to obtain permits and ensure the events are safe and legal.
· We have obtained public liability insurance, as well as insurance to protect our team, participants, and volunteers.
· The leadership team has experience planning previous events in these specific locations, and significant experience managing large events and budgets.
· We have included a 7% contingency budget for unexpected expenses.
· If we don’t meet our funding goal, the event will still happen – we will apply for a small emergency grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, but will likely have to turn to corporate sponsors. Your donation will help us keep the event local and grassroots (and keeps corporate logos off our puppets).
We wish to thank Materials for the Arts and the generous donors who supported our initial workshop – we wouldn’t be here without you!!
We also want to give major kudos to the incredible volunteers and friends who have given time, space, and energy to help us get this far. In particular, we want to recognize: Jason Ankeny, Andrés Arias, India Aubry, David Bell, Heather Booth, Anne Cubberly, Talya Chalef, James Cowney, Alejandro Díaz Barriga, Tara Ijai, Ariel Ingber, Amy Kaufman, Marcy Kaufman, Mike Kaufman, Steve and Karen Kaufman, Les Grands Personnes, Lydia López, Kathi Noaker, Kalob Martinez, Materials for the Arts, Karina Ordonez, Kaleb Oseguera, Derly Pérez, Shoshanna Richman, Tom Rogers, Robby Sandler, Emily Stokes, E. Donna Shepherd, and Lara Weitzman.
Beyond the Wall is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Beyond the Wall must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.