Shira Walinsky and Southeast by Southeast artists
Vinyl-wrapped kiosk, postcards, T-shirts, books, community zines, videos, maps, audio, and other materials
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.
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.