Catherine Besteman, the Francis F. Bartlett and Ruth K. Bartlett Professor of Anthropology at Colby, is among the recipients selected to receive a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for an upcoming exhibition organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (MECA).

Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways brings together a dynamic group of contemporary artists whose work engages with the theme of migration, shining light on a prominent national conversation on displacement, exile, and mobility. The exhibition is co-curated by Besteman and Julie Poitras Santos, an artist, writer, and assistant professor at MECA, and will be organized by Erin Hutton, director of exhibitions and special programs at MECA.

The exhibition opens an inclusive critique of stereotypes about migrants and migrations, focusing on the pathways that link memory, movement, the loss of home, and the invention of new homes. The works ask viewers and participants to examine how structural inequalities influence daily interactions and experiences of mobility.

“Art can be a powerful stimulant of consciousness and can help viewers see and think differently about ordinary things,” Besteman said. “In this time of heightened scrutiny of immigration and virulent contestation over the right to mobility, we hope to open a space for community members to think through and challenge prevailing prejudices about immigrants.”

“Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks & Pathways creates a platform for community dialogue regarding one of the critical issues of our time, and offers alternative perspectives from much of what we see in daily news and Twitter blasts,” Poitras Santos added. “The artworks in the exhibition offer important opportunities for measured reflection on global migration today, as well as encouraging an historical lens, and reveal the significant ways in which political decisions shape human lives.”

Artwork is the NEA’s largest funding category, supporting projects for the creation of art that meet the highest standards of excellence; public engagement with diverse and excellent art; lifelong learning in the arts; and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a wide range of events about migration, immigration, and border crossing collaborating with more than 60 partner organizations throughout the state, including many Colby College professors and students. Events include companion exhibitions, lectures, films, performances, poetry readings, and community conversations. Of note is an exhibition on migration, Seeing Otherwise, on view in October at the Colby College Museum of Art. The exhibition is co-curated by Besteman, Chloé Powers ’19, and Caroline Webb ’19.

Besteman has conducted extensive fieldwork studying migration in South Africa, Somalia, and the United States, and recently published Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (2017), exploring the transformation of a small city in Maine through immigration. Poitras Santos’s research and production is fueled by an interest in the relationship between site, story, and mobility and often operates as a means to facilitate community engagement.

The exhibition is on view Oct. 5-Dec. 14 at ICA in Portland, Maine. For more information visit: