Social art exhibit gives voice to displaced, refugee families

By Jordan Gass-Pooré
University News Service
July 20, 2011

A road trip four years ago across the Texas/Mexico border inspired Jason Reed, associate professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University-San Marcos, to change the perception of the Southwest with social art project Borderland Collective.

The Borderland Collective “Wurzbach Manor” exhibit at the San Antonio Central Library tells the story of three displaced families living in the Wurzbach Manor Apartments in San Antonio.

Reed said the “Wuzbach Manor” exhibit features a family whose home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. He said the family was relocated to San Antonio after family members waited for help by a New Orleans interstate highway for four days.

Reed said there are families featured in “Wurzbach Manor” from Tanzania and Burma. He said they were chosen from a lottery system to be relocated to San Antonio.

Reed said he and childhood friend Ryan Sprott started social art project Borderland Collective to provide a representation of the contemporary American experience. He said they wanted to facilitate projects where people living in the Southwest could tell their life story through a creative medium.

Reed said narratives about the Southwest are predominantly told through an outsider’s perspective.

“It was the kind of narrative you would see in John Wayne films,” Reed said. “Even The New York Times’ reports are the same people telling the same stories.”

Reed said Borderland Collective first facilitated a student photography project. He said Sprott’s former 10th grade English class in Big Lake were given cameras and asked to document their lives.

Reed said he, Sprott and other Borderland Collective representatives worked with the three families featured in the “Wurzbach Manor” exhibit for more than a year. He said they were granted access into the families’ homes and to photo albums.

“Social art is very much based on conversation and dialogue,” Reed said. “It’s about engaging people and bridging borders.”

The “Wurzbach Manor” exhibit continues until July 30. For more information contact the San Antonio Central Library at (210) 207-2500.