The Suitcase Project
In 2021 The Suitcase Project was created in response to and inspired by Tom Kiefer’s moving exhibition, El Sueño Americano | The American Dream: Photographs. In this photographic series, Kiefer asked us to consider how we treat migrants as a reflection of who we are and who we want to be as Americans. In his work, which is a response to the dehumanizing treatment migrants face in detention, he carefully arranges and photographs objects seized and discarded by border officials—objects deemed “potentially lethal” or “non-essential” among a variety of belongings crucial for sustenance, hygiene, protection, comfort, and emotional strength.The Suitcase Project focuses on the items contained in immigrants’ and migrants’ suitcases as an examination of the cultural and social landscapes of our cities: Cleveland and Akron. In the 2010s, the immigrant populations began to see significant growth, becoming one of the fastest growing centers for immigration in the Great Lakes region. As immigration is an important aspect of American history as well as contemporary American life, the Suitcase Project considers the cultural, social, and historical aspects of immigration through art and the written word.
Through the lens of immigration and migration, this project examines the condensed universe of the luggage, along with replicating presentation and engagement on the topic of immigration. The Suitcase Project recasts the narrative of immigrants using their own voice and vision. We asked participants to create an innovative project that considers the content of the luggage as a study in cultural self-portraiture.
Through an open call, nine participants from immigrant families (up to two generations removed) were chosen to create suitcases of meaningful artifacts from their home countries and new artwork as part of a traveling exhibition. The exhibition spent four weeks at the Cleveland Print Room and then traveled to Akron Soul Train’s gallery and was on view for four weeks from June 9 - July 3, 2021