Pride Without Borders: Refugee, asylum seeker share artwork for fundraiser

BRATTLEBORO — Paintings by a refugee and an asylum seeker in the LGBTQ community living locally now are being highlighted in a new exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center and upcoming fundraiser.  

“We recognize that this is a Pride event in the month of November but when we talked about Pride, we are very firm in the belief that Pride should be celebrated throughout the whole year instead of just a couple of months,” Adriana Negron of Vital Partnerships said in an interview at the exhibit, “because it’s always Pride.”

Pride Month is in June. LGBTQ+ History Month is in October. 

Over the fall and winter, the museum converted one of its galleries to what is now being dubbed The Living Room. Museum Director Danny Lichtenfeld described the area as “a place for visitors to hang out, read, relax and chat.”

Each month, the walls of The Living Room will feature artwork by local community members.

“These displays are less formal than our curated exhibits, and they’re meant to shine a spotlight on some of the many great artists and art projects taking place in and around Brattleboro,” Lichtenfeld said.

The first display runs until Nov. 12 and features paintings by two artists involved with Pride Without Borders — Alistair Drummond and Abdullah Hafizi. Lichtenfeld said Pride Without Borders supports artists who have sought asylum from persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

A fundraiser at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the museum is meant to highlight the work, and also benefit and bring awareness to the Ethiopian Community Development Council and Community Asylum Seekers Project. Both groups operate locally. 

“We want to show our support and thank them for the work that they are doing in response to these terrible circumstances that people are going through,” Negron said. 

Vital Partnerships, run by Wichie Artu to help nonprofits fill gaps in the community, secured a grant through United Way of Windham County to create the event. Snacks will be offered. 

Artists from the LGBTQ community will speak about their work as will representatives from ECDC and CASP. 

“BMAC is honored to support these brave artists and to recognize the important work of the organizations behind Pride Without Borders, including ECDC, CASP, and Vital Partnerships,” Lichtenfeld said. “We look forward to hosting Vital Partnerships’ fundraiser … We hope that many members of the public will come out to learn more about this great organization and check out the paintings by Alistair and Abdullah.”

The idea for the event started when Hafizi, a refugee whose work is shown in the exhibit, wanted to present a movie during Pride Month. 

“We talked about it, we went back and forth, and then we decided, Hey, why don’t we do an art exhibition?” Negron said

Negron said she and others have found in researching that asylum seekers and refugees who are LGBTQ “face really unique challenges … so we thought that it was important to have a moment to pause and talk about this community and bring some awareness around it.” She noted the number of people seeking refuge and asylum in the U.S. is dramatically rising. 

They’re running away from real danger, Negron said. 

“They’re coming from countries that are very hostile or they can be imprisoned,” she said. “When they are in prison, they often disappear. Their families never hear from them again.” 

Drummond is seeking asylum in the U.S. 

Attendees of the event can donate what they can. There’s no suggested amount. 

With the potential for persecution and discrimination, Negron stressed the importance of creating “spaces of support and awareness” for refugees and asylum seekers. She said the event shows “they have a community that they can count on and that is there for them.”

Negron, who relocated from Puerto Rico and has a child who identifies as gender nonbinary, said she finds Brattleboro to be “a very welcoming place for our family.”

“So I feel like this is the right place to have this event,” she said. 

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