SoundSpace Reframes the Refugee Conversation

Blanton Museum music series explores the refugee experience

With refugee stories constantly in the news and in the public consciousness, it’s easy to become desensitized to their deluge. Those who are still listening know that each refugee tale is unique – frequently in horrifying ways. Those who have recently stopped listening might turn to the Blanton Museum to re-engage.

With SoundSpace: Refugees, the Blanton presents work written by, performed by, or depicting the experience of refugees. The performances vary in scope and approach, but all are urgent. Refugees was organized for the Blanton by Steve Parker, artistic director for the SoundSpace program, and features mostly new work from the participating musicians, dancers, mixed-media artists, and more. As the wider conversation around refugees became more heated, Parker felt compelled to reach out to the creative community and invite them to create art that provokes and moves.

“The conversation with Adam Bennett [Blanton Manager of Public Programs] really started right after the election,” says Parker. “We decided we wanted to do a couple of SoundSpaces on the issues that were at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness.”

Those unfamiliar with the museum’s music series should know that the work presented within the Blanton’s hallowed walls and galleries for SoundSpace is usually more art than conventional music. This means visitors are frequently caught off-guard by artists willing to take an uncommon leap to make you think, feel, and listen.

“We’re interested in reframing the conversation around refugees for people,” says Parker. “Perhaps they’ll approach their relationship to these issues with a bit more empathy.”

The latest installation in the Blanton’s music series doesn’t shy away from the painful breadth of the refugee experience, and the stories presented are both historically powerful – with ARCOS Dance and their depiction of World War II devastation – and heartbreakingly contemporary. Brent Baldwin, artistic director of the choral group Panoramic Voices, offers up the world premiere of a new collaboration with musician Nakia and dancers Hassan Christopher and Alexa Capareda for the program.

“The piece is supposed to serve as an invitation for people to become better listeners, allies, and humans,” Baldwin says. “I’m hoping that more people can ask themselves the hard questions.”

SoundSpace: Refugees takes place Sunday, June 4, 2-4pm, and is included with admission to the Blanton.

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Blanton Museum of Art, SoundSpace, Steve Parker, Adam Bennet, ARCOS Dance, Brent Baldwin, Nakia, Hassan Christopher, Alexa Capareda

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