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Pro-immigration art project travels the states


By jaqueline Delpilar
On July 23, 2013

WASHINGTON-Artists and volunteers have been going around painting cities in black and white as a form of a pro-immigration project.

Members of the Inside Out Project, a public art project that started in 2011, began a 17-city tour July 15 with a three-day stop in Washington D.C.

This particular project is called Inside Out 11m, referring to the 11 million immigrants affected by immigration reform in the U.S. The project's goal is to showcase diversity in the U.S. and to show support for immigration reform.

This project involves large-scale black and white prints of individuals who volunteer to participate. They sit in a small booth at the back of a truck and push a button. Moments later, a poster-sized print spools from the side of the truck, and project volunteers or photo subjects paste the photos on the street or on buildings to make a statement.

The project was started by an artist who goes by the name JR. He was born in Paris and won a TED Prize for his large-scale public displays of diversity. The award invests $1 million every year in one person who has a creative project "to inspire the world," according to the TED website.

Marc Azoulay, 29, an art producer from Paris, is a part of JR's team. He is one of the Inside Out artists traveling across the country with the photo truck.

"Art can change the world. We've seen it over the last two years by just using bus tours-it actually changed people's lives," Azoulay said. "It creates a sentiment of joy-it's beautiful to see that."

Inside Out, which is funded by donations and grants, has become a global project. Photo booths have been set up in more than 8,000 locations in 108 countries.

Inside Out 11m members said they do not make political statements, other than their support for immigration reform. But they create a forum for others to become aware of issues and give their opinions.

"We're just enablers. As part of the art project, we provide the tools, and then people make the statement themselves," Azoulay said.

Members of the Inside Out team said the goal is to put a face to the 11 million immigrants who are affected by immigration reform, although participants do not need to be immigrants to join in.

Azoulay said Inside Out 11m printed more than 500 portraits in Washington.

Tony Herbas, 30, an immigrant from Bolivia, volunteers with Inside Out. Herbas is a graphic designer who now lives in Washington.

"The goal is to bring community together and spread a message," Herbas said. "It allows anyone to participate."

The project relies on social media to spread the word about its location and mission. During the Washington stop, the photo bus visited the Children's Defense Fund building, the Capitol and the Department of Education plaza. The photos are left behind to disintegrate.

The project's next stops are Sacramento and San Francisco, Calif.

Inside Out arrived in Washington on July 15, the same day as the D.C. March for Jobs protest. This march and rally, led by the Black American Leadership Alliance, was in opposition to the immigration reform bill. It drew about 3,000 people who support the alliance's goal to preserve jobs for U.S. citizens.

The alliance fears that allowing immigrants a path to citizenship would threaten jobs of low-skilled workers, particularly in the black community.

"Now is not the time for Congress to increase competition for scarce jobs by adding millions more workers through legalization," alliance leader Frank Morris said in a press release.

He said more immigrants "will flood the labor market with millions more people, leading to higher unemployment, more poverty and a lower standard of living for many in the black community."

Jacqueline v is a senior at the University of Tennessee majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science.  She is currently interning at the Scripps Howard Foundation's Semester in Washington program. She may be reached at

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