/ Modified jul 12, 2013 9:25 a.m.

Exhibition Gives Refugees a Voice

'Museum as Sanctuary' features work by people affected by traumatic life experiences.


For the past three years, the Tucson Museum of Art, and Owl and Panther: A Project of The Hopi Foundation have been working together to use art to help refugees, who have been through traumatic relocation experiences.

Marge Pellegrino, project manager for Owl and Panther: A Project of The Hopi Foundation, and Morgan Wells, curator of education and community partnerships for the Tucson Museum of Art, got together and created an exhibit called Museum as Sanctuary.

“Most of them are in this (refugee) situation because they spoke out,” Pellegrino says. “We give them their voice back.”

Displayed in the exhibit is the artwork of 30 refugees involved with Owl and Panther. There are six adults, and 24 others who range from kindergarten through high school.

The show wants to highlight the richness refugees bring to a community, says Pellegrino, who has been working with Hopi for 14 years.

Metasebyia Tefera is one of the artists displayed in the exhibit.

“I like to participate in Owl and Panther,” Tefera said. “(They helped me) improve my English and (improve) art skills.”

Wells says their goal is to make the refugees feel at home in the museum. “We try to show them that art doesn’t have to be intimidating,” he says.

Museum as Sanctuary: Giving Voice to Tucson Refugees opened July 3 and will run through Sept. 15 at the Tucson Museum of Art located on 140 N. Main Ave.

It features paintings, photography and mixed media arts meant to tell the story of each artist’s culture, as well as to illustrate some myths and stories that originate in Tohono O’odham folklore.

Mary Olivas is a journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media.

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