Free Speech

 

Shira Walinsky and Southeast by Southeast • 2017 • Vinyl-wrapped kiosk, postcards, T-shirts, books, community zines, videos, maps, audio, and other materials • Marconi Plaza

Free Speech was an interactive news kiosk in Marconi Plaza featuring the stories of immigrant and refugee artists in Philadelphia. Envisioned by artist Shira Walinsky, the kiosk offered free written and artistic materials including postcards, maps, books, oral histories, and recipe cards to passersby. Installed next to SEPTA’s Oregon Avenue subway and bus stations, Free Speech was embedded within a South Philadelphia neighborhood that has long served as a home for immigrant, migrant, and refugee families. Among Walinsky’s projects housed within Free Speech was a stylized, hand-drawn map of immigrant businesses. Walinsky noted, “A small business is often the first big step many new immigrant and refugee families take in beginning their lives in the US. Free Speech is a metaphor for that first step, a symbol of why so many risk their lives to come to the United States.”

The project was informed by over six years of work by Walinsky as lead artist at the Mural Arts Southeast by Southeast community hub in South Philadelphia, in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, and members of the Bhutanese, Burmese, Nepalese, and other immigrant and refugee communities. For Free Speech, Walinsky collaborated with numerous Southeast by Southeast artists, including Sanctuary Poets, Catzie Vilayphonh of Laos in the House, Laura Deutch of PhillyCAM, Ma Kay Saw, Krishna Tamang, Noor Azizah, and Mayyadah Alhumssi.

Collaborators: Melissa Fogg (Co-Founder and Programming)

Youth: Bwe Ku, Than Than Nain, Ermyas Sereke, Khin Aye, Pau San Lian, Mnar Shay, Liliana Velasquez, and students at Northeast High School

Teachers: Tiffany Lorch, Amanda Feigel, Diego Bedoya, and Gena Bernal 

Artists/Writers: Naw Doh, Tika Bhandari, Thagi Bastola, Lisa Butler Grainge, James Onorfrio, Rorng Sorn, Hitomi Yoshida, Phila Italiana, Leona Pongparnsana, Fariha Khan, Mark Lyons, Sanctuary Poets, Indah Nuritasari, Sinta Penyami, Randy Duque, Jessica Whitelaw, Fernando Chang-Muy, Boone Nguyen, Brae Howard, Senpai, and Kohai

Partners: City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Friends of Marconi Plaza, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Furness High School, Northeast High School, and Migrant Education. Free Speech was presented as a part of the Monument Lab: Philadelphia (2017) exhibition.

Major support for Monument Lab 2017 projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. An expanded artist roster and projects at additional neighborhood sites made possible by the William Penn Foundation. Generous additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Full list of exhibition sponsors.

Project Manager: Jessica Lewis-Turner

 

 

Artist Statement

A small business is often the first big step many new immigrant and refugee families take in beginning their lives in the US. Free Speech is a metaphor for that first step, a symbol of why so many risk their lives to come to the US. Free Speech is a news kiosk filled with artwork and writing, created over the past six years with Southeast by Southeast—a converted storefront space dedicated to the needs of new refugee families. The newsstand and its materials celebrate refugee and immigrant stories, and feature the artwork of members of the refugee and immigrant communities. Highlighted work includes books made in collaboration with students and teachers, and videos created with students. Collaborations with other artists are in the exhibit and part of an event series.

 

 
 

 

About the Artist

 
Shira-Walinsky.jpg

Shira Walinsky is a multi-disciplinary artist and teacher who has worked with communities throughout Philadelphia. Her projects are grassroots community projects that work with underutilized spaces in the city. She is compelled by the personal story and modes of representations from the painted portrait to the documentary. Her murals can be seen throughout the city of Philadelphia. 

In 2012, Walinsky co- founded by Southeast by Southeast through Mural Arts Philadelphia. Southeast by Southeast is a community center for new refugees from Burma and Bhutan in South Philadelphia. Southeast by Southeast has been presented at the North American Refugee Health conference in Rochester, NY. Her work has also been shown at PAFA, Asian Arts Initiative, and the ICA Philadelphia. She is currently working on a series of short films about the Burmese and Bhutanese refugee experience in Philadelphia with teens in South Philadelphia.