Bucknell Visiting Artists Make Pillows Political

April 18, 2018

For Cara Megan Lewis and Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera, art is a tool for social change. As Bucknell's inaugural Ekard Artists-in-Residence, they're amplifying their art's impact by turning their creativity into a community affair.

The couple — known as Díaz Lewis — have taken a highly collaborative approach to their month-long residency by inviting students, faculty and staff to a series of pillow-making workshops to raise awareness of detained immigrants.

Why pillows?

Alarmed by a 2009 congressional mandate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should maintain a "bed quota" of no less than 34,000 detained immigrants per day in a network of 350 detention facilities, Díaz Lewis set out to make 34,000 pillows to represent the detainees. The artists construct pillows from clothing donated by undocumented immigrants, former detainees and their allies to form a collective patchwork of individual experiences.

The artists' mission resonated with students in Professor Jonathan Frey's Drawing 101 class, where Lewis and Díaz-Perera guest-taught two sessions.

"It's really hands on. You get to be creative with your design, and it's for a good cause," said Jasmine Owens '21, a chemistry major, looking up from her sewing machine.

"The message is really powerful," added Megan Zimmerman '21, who majors in political science. Neither student had prior sewing experience, but both were quickly picking up pointers from Lewis.

The Ekard Artist Residency, administered by the Department of Art & Art History and the Samek Art Museum, offers visiting artists time and space to work as well as an opportunity to publicly present their works on campus. During their stay, they also lead workshops, classes and open their studios to the public. The residency culminates in a show of new work created or in process during their time at Bucknell.

Lewis and Díaz-Perera will give a public lecture on Thursday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Elaine Langone Center's Gallery Theatre. A reception will follow in the Samek Gallery, where pillows created by the artists and Bucknell students will be on display through April 29.