The Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) in collaboration with Sally Jacobs are pleased to announce they are the recipients of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Inclusive Public Art grant.
This grant worth a total of $50,000 was awarded on behalf of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to create an inclusive public work of art. The public artwork will lift up the story of a large, marginalized group: the Latino migrant farmworker community. The public work of art will take shape as a sculpture. The foundation of the sculpture will be a repurposed school bus. This mobile and living bus sculpture will tell the Latino migrant workers’ stories through multiple mediums.
In addition to Jacobs’ role as the art project director, she is also the co-director of the documentary At a Stranger’s Table. This film introduces the east coast migrant farmworker to the United States citizen. While documenting for the film, Jacobs kept noticing the school buses that have been converted and used on the farms. These used school buses where chopped up, reconfigured, and repurposed to transport produce, farm equipment, chemicals, and, of course, workers to and from the fields. “It dawned on me,” Jacobs said, “that the school bus, a common sight in rural America, is the very thing hiding the farmworker.” The migrant farmworker is picked up at their temporary dwelling unit and transported directly to the fields or warehouses. “The school bus, which is typically a symbol of education and equality,” Jacobs says, “has become a mask for those who harvest our food. The farmworkers are the invisible class in America. The mobile, “living” school bus sculpture will help make their stories visible.”
The story of the east coast Latino migrant farmworker is best expressed through the experience a visitor will have when interacting with the bus sculpture. The school bus as the foundation of the sculpture ties together the contributions, achievements, and struggles of the Latino farmworkers and how they have greatly contributed through many personal sacrifices to the economic well being of Greenville, NC, its surrounding communities, and the nation. We believe the local issues in eastern North Carolina are connected globally. There are many sending communities in Mexico and central America who have women and children left behind because the husbands left for an agricultural job in the United States (often with a H-2A visa). The bus sculpture is the vessel in which transcultural storytelling is conveyed from isolated hidden communities to the greater public. The exterior of the bus will feature indigenous patterns, large scale photographs of farmworkers, and other imagery that will provide the visual impact for the story. The interior of the bus sculpture will have interactive, multi-media installations. One such installation is time-based looping videos and sounds of migrant farmworkers in the field and excerpts from the documentary At a Stranger’s Table. The infrastructure for future interactive work will be established, such as a reference center, an audio storytelling booth, an art table and a community board for shared stories. The bus sculpture will serve as an ongoing interactive multi-media public work of art for the community to be involved in an effort to bridge cultural borders.
ZSR has created a partnership with UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina, which will be working with the Foundation to capture and document the experiences and conversations of all the grantee communities as they tell these important stories through public art.