Free Family Day: “Border Cantos / Sonic Borders" at the Figge Art Museum -- May 15.

Sunday, May 15, noon – 3 p.m.

Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second Street, Davenport IA

Families can enjoy an afternoon of fun, fascinating, and free activities and performances at the Figge Art Museum when the Davenport venue and its outdoor Bechtel Plaza, on May 15, host a celebration of Border Cantos / Sonic Borders, the exhibit designed to explore the complexities of the southern border through photography, sculpture, and sound, inviting patrons to bridge boundaries and initiate important conversations.

With their exhibition humanizing the Mexican-American border and inviting visitors to engage with the complex and often misunderstood experiences of those seeking a better life in the United States, Border Cantos / Sonic Borders finds American photographer Richard Misrach and Mexican-American artist and composer Guillermo Galindo addressing fraught topics touching on politics, the environment, and humanitarian issues. Misrach is well-known for his expansive images focusing on the ways humans interact with and impact the natural world, while Galindo is inspired by the Mesoamerican belief that one can bring out the spiritual essence of an object's past. Galindo's 260-minute composition Sonic Borders, which can be heard playing within the gallery, employs eight musical instruments the artist created from objects discarded near the border. Taken together, the photographs, objects, and sonic composition introduce distinct yet interrelated ways of experiencing the human consequences of immigration policies. By offering evidence of those who have journeyed through the borderlands in pursuit of their hopes and dreams, Misrach and Galindo encourage empathy for the plight of migrants everywhere.

Over the course of his career, Misrach has photographed the deserts of the American West, and made a series documenting the changes brought to bear on the environment by various man-made factors such as urban sprawl, tourism, industrialization, floods, fires, petrochemical manufacturing, and the testing of explosives and nuclear weapons by the military. Curator Anne Wilkes Tucker wrote that Misrach's practice has been "driven [by] issues of aesthetics, politics, ecology, and sociology," and David Littlejohn of The Wall Street Journal calls Misrach "the most interesting and original American photographer of his generation." In a 2011 interview, Misrach himself noted: "My career, in a way, has been about navigating these two extremes – the political and the aesthetic," while in a description of his philosophy, the New York Times' Tracey Taylor noted that "[Misrach's] images are for the historical record, not reportage."

Galindo began his career writing more traditional Western classical music, and in 1997, he wrote Ome Acatl, a symphony based on the proportions and symbolism of the Aztec calendars for the OFUNAM orchestra. His subsequent work Trade Routes was performed by the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 2005, taking inspiration from the streets of Oakland, California. In 2006, Galindo began composing experimental music, and according to Art in America, Galindo also began “building his own instruments, performing compositions on them himself or improvising with them,” including audience participation in his pieces. The publication stated further that in created his instruments, he “redefines the borders set by musical convention … [and] listens to found objects and, in effect, lets them speak as they will."

During the Figge's free family day on May 15, museum guests are invited to participate in a number of activities in between enjoying live performances by the gifted dancers of Quad City Ballet Folklorico. Patrons can share their own migration stories by recording audio stories and filling out worksheets on their families' coming-to-America tales. A “Border Wall” event will allow patrons to decorate a brick to add to a wall that will be torn down at the end of the day, with the bricks dispersed back to participants. The “Sonic Sounds” activity lets families make instruments from discarded and uncycled items, and invites them to join in a “sonic circle” to make experimental sounds with guest musician Sarah Hepner. And in addition to viewing the Border Cantos / Sonic Borders exhibit and viewing interviews with exhibit's artists in the John Deere Auditorium, guests can Join in a photo-taking session and state their thoughts in a mission statement that will be shared with the public.

The free family day in celebration of Border Cantos / Sonic Borders will take place on May 15 from noon to 3 p.m., and the exhibit itself will be on display through June 5. For more information, call (563)326-7804 and visit

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