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Photography Exhibit Portrays 100 Years Of Missouri Immigrants

The cultures of Kansas and Missouri was shaped by wave after wave of immigrants: from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe. A new exhibit called, The Missouri Immigrant Experience: Faces and Places portrays vivid images of the state’s diverse immigrants from the early nineteenth century to today.  The exhibit was sponsored by the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), a coalition of organizations that advocates for immigrants.

KC Currents' Susan Wilson spoke with the  curator of the exhibit, Daniel Gonzales and OscarPedroza, a Kansas city-based photographer whose work is a part of the exhibit.


Gonzalez on a recent photo of dancing Bosnian immigrants:

“That was taken by one of our photographers here in St. Louis. And she, herself, was a Bosnian immigrant. And so, that was what was amazing about having immigrant photographers going into their communities and taking these photographs is we got to see the community through their eyes, through their lens, literally.”

Gonzalez on the timing of the exhibit:

“It is no accident that the exhibit is around right now because we want to tell a particular story and we want to paint a particular narrative about the immigrant community and its importance to Missouri and to the United States." 

"At the beginning of the exhibit, we have a quote from Franklin Roosevelt from 1938, he’s speaking to a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution. And he says, ‘Remember always that all of us are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.’ And I think that’s perhaps the underlying message as simple as we can say it that we are all immigrants; we all come from that background....And that’s going to continue to be the case and we want those next groups of immigrants that come to be welcomed and have the opportunities to become a part of the fabric of American society.”

Pedroza on his photo of a man in a sombrero staring straight into the camera lens:

“That was taken in Lansing, Kansas. And a good friend of mine, Pedro, who is a mariachi singer...invited me to come out. They do practice runs with some of the cattle and families come together...And I told him, ‘I would love to photograph people just doing their everyday hobbies.’ And he goes, ‘I know the right place to do it.’ Anytime I’ve asked people where they think it was taken, immediately, they assume it was taken in Mexico. Never to realize that surprisingly, it was taken here in Kansas. The story goes beyond the frontiers. Our immigration, ourselves coming in to new places, into Kansas, Missouri, and developing and bringing our new culture, bringing our hobbies with us. And bringing our passions also.”

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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