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$215 pledged of $8,700 goal
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By Jennifer VonStein
$215 pledged of $8,700 goal
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About this project

New Neighbors: Paintings of Lancaster's Refugees

Did you know that the Lancaster, Pennsylvania region is one of the largest areas for refugee resettlement, per capita, in the United States, with over 500 resettled in the Lancaster region in 2016? These families are fleeing their homelands due to war, violence and persecution, and in 2016, 46% of the individuals resettled in this area were children under the age of 18. I didn't know any of this, but when I learned this statistic early this year, in the midst of announcements of travel bans and what not, I knew I wanted to do something to shed light on this positive fact. But I am just a painter - what could I do?  That’s when it hit me – create a portrait series of these refugees living in this area. 

New Neighbors: Paintings of Lancaster's Refugees is an art project and exhibition that will feature painted portraits and narratives of individuals and families that have been resettled in this region. Consisting of large portraits of children and adults, as well as interviews with these individuals, this series and exhibit intends to raise awareness about these families, our new neighbors in Lancaster, and the refugee situation at large. 

A painted portrait has been long been an art form that only the wealthy can afford, or worthy of a person of significance. Historically, the painted portrait signifies a certain position in society, typically privileged and powerful. By painting these refugees, I intend to honor their lives, their struggles, their courage and their determination, regardless of their socio-economic status.

In case you were wondering, these families are not “illegal.” These are people that have been designated as refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency, gone through a 2-3 year recurrent, extensive vetting process by the United Nations and the US security agencies. Only refugees who are strong candidates for resettlement (less than 1% of the global refugee population) even get a chance to move forward in the process, and it can be halted at any time if there are red flags. In 2016, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burma were resettled the most in this area, along with an additional 226 Cuban and Haitian entrants.

With your support, I can make this series of paintings and exhibition, New Neighbors, all it can be. I'm partnering with CWS-Lancaster, Immigration and Refugee Program, a local resettlement agency, to facilitate introductions and sittings with the individuals and families, and I've already secured gallery space for a show in Lancaster, PA, in June 2018. The gallery, LSJ Studios, has room to show 15-20 large paintings, plus smaller sketches and color studies. In addition to the portraits, since I am a storyteller by nature, there will be short interviews to find out more about these folks – where they came from, why they fled, what they miss, what they like about their new home. These narratives will be shown with the paintings. Funds will be used towards paying these individuals a sitting/model fee, translators' fees, getting the art supplies needed, my time spent working on the project, and promoting the June 2018 show as an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the refugee situation.

 

As a practicing artist for over 20 years, I’ve painted landscapes and portraits, with my most recent work focusing on a series of zoomorphic paintings – animal people. But I believe that this portrait series can be my most important and relevant work to date. 

Regarding my work, I think it can be summed up in 3 ways:

My work is a response – to a place, to an event, to a person, to an experience. Influences and references to art history, literature and pop culture are conscious and subconscious. My paintings are my way of preserving a particular moment in time or a recollection of a memory.

 My work is a story – a personal narrative that reveals itself to you, colored and shaped by your perceptions and intentions. I love to tell tales, because what seems straightforward is usually not and what seems complex is actually quite simple. 

 My work is a celebration – bold, bright colors and lush, layered texture that revels in the physicality of paint. In other words, I like pushing oil and acrylic paint around a canvas and making interesting marks in an expressive, representational style.

 

Any way that you can help support this campaign is greatly appreciated. There are backer rewards ranging from postcards to prints to e-books of the series to original paintings, and I do hope you can find a way to get behind this project. Please, consider supporting it and sharing it with your friends. I can’t make New Neighbors all it can be without your help.

For more information and statistics on refugees in Lancaster County and in the world, please check out:

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-38776233/lancaster-pennsylvania-america-s-refugee-capital

http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/03/amish-country-loves-god-donald-trump-and-refugees/436908001/

http://cwslancaster.org

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html

http://www.refugeesinpa.org/GettheFacts/index.htm

http://www.refugeesinpa.org/aboutus/demoandarrivalstats/

https://greateras1.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Economic-Impact-and-Refugee-Integration-in-the-United-Sates_5.11.17.pdf

http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/

https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html 

 

Risks and challenges

The risks are minimal, as I have already secured the gallery space for June 2018 and am actively working with CWS-Lancaster, Immigration and Refugee Program, a local refugee resettlement agency, to facilitate introductions and sittings, beginning August 2017.

I am willing to paint as many of my New Neighbors as possible from August 2017-May 2018, and am planning on 15-20 (24" x 30" or larger) paintings, along with the narratives, for this show. With the amount of refugees in this region, I'm not planning on having redundant sitters, although that could happen, particularly if I create a group portrait.

As a practicing artist, I have the experience producing work for shows and coordinating the exhibit, even when it gets down to the wire. I am working with a local printer for the backer rewards, so I do not anticipate any delays. Barring some dire accident that prevents me from painting, I don't foresee any delays that would cause this project not to move ahead on schedule.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Postcard

    I'll mail you a postcard of 1 of the paintings from the New Neighbors series.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    E-book of New Neighbors

    Get a PDF e-book of the series, complete with the narratives that accompany the paintings

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    Four Postcards + E-Book

    4 postcards from this series + the New Neighbors PDF e-book

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Four Postcards + Two E-Books

    Receive a PDF e-book of the entire New Neighbors series along with the narratives that accompany each portrait, as well as a PDF e-book that details the works in progress and my painting process with acrylics and oils, plus 4 postcards

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    Eight Postcards & Two E-Books

    Receive 8 postcards, plus the 2 e-books of New Neighbors and the Painting Process when the series is complete.

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    Small Print

    Receive a 8" x 10" print of one of the works in the series, plus both e-books.

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    Large Print

    Receive a 12" x 12" or 12" x 18" print of one of the works in the series, plus both e-books.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Original Painting

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL - I will send you a 12" x 12" or proportional small painting. These original small works on paper are created with acrylics, varnished and ready to frame. These works are often the color studies leading up to the larger studio work, and exhibit a impressionist freshness and liveliness, while still maintaining my representational feel. Plus both e-books.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Original Painting

    I will send you a 12" x 12" or proportional small painting from this series. These original small works on archival paper are created with acrylics, varnished and ready to frame. These works are often the color studies leading up to the larger studio work, and exhibit a impressionist freshness and liveliness, while still maintaining my representational feel. Plus both e-books.

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    Original Painting From Your Photo

    Send me your original photo and I will paint it! 12" x 12'' or proportional, acrylic on archival paper, varnished and ready to frame. Plus both e-books.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Original Large Painting

    Receive an original painting of you choice from the series. These painting range from 30" x 30" to 36" x 48", and my heartfelt thanks for your incredibly generous support.

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Funding period

- (30 days)