SMU's Meadows School of the Arts brings activist artist Tania Bruguera's new project "The Francis Effect" to Dallas, October 3-4

Public Project Results From Bruguera’s 2013 Meadows Prize Residency Work Co-Commissioned with Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Santa Monica Museum of Art

Tania Bruguera performing The Francis Effect outside the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2014. Photos: Courtesy Enid Alvarez.

The Division of Art at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts will welcome interdisciplinary activist artist Tania Bruguera to enact her newest public project, “The Francis Effect,” across Dallas, Texas on October 3 and 4. The outcome of Bruguera’s SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ 2013 Meadows Prize residency, “The Francis Effect” represents an extension of her practice’s innovative blurring of art, life, and politics and aims to challenge public perceptions of immigration, redressing the assault to citizenship rights of undocumented migrants around the globe. Working within the framework of her ongoing Dignity Has No Nationality project, the artist and her collaborators are collecting signatures—outside the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum this past summer, throughout the Dallas area this October, and also online—on postcards addressed to Pope Francis that endorse his supportive stance toward immigrants.

Part of the Guggenheim’s exhibition Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today (June 13 – October 1, 2014), an expanded version of “The Francis Effect” will be mounted across the Dallas area on October 3 and 4. Supported through her Meadows Prize residency at the Meadows School of the Arts, Bruguera and her partners will gather signatures in a number of locations across the city—including the neighborhoods of Oak Cliff and Lower Greenville, Fair Park, and the Arts District—to engage the community in this artistic response to the global immigration crisis. Referring to the Vatican City as a “conceptual nation” with an open border policy, Bruguera’s petition requests that the Pope grant Vatican citizenship to all undocumented immigrants as a gesture toward reuniting the world. To complete the performance, she hopes to deliver the postcards in a personal audience with the Pope later this year. To date, Bruguera and her collaborators have collected over 12,000 signatures. “The Francis Effect” is also part of the exhibition Citizen Culture: Artists and Architects Shape Policy at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (September 13 – December 13, 2014).

“This project includes three elements that get strong reactions from people—religion, immigration, and politics—and it asks, ‘is art able to change something?’,” said Tania Bruguera. “For my Meadows Prize residency, I wanted to do an action that engages people’s imagination. When I talk to people, I love seeing the moment of understanding, of ‘what if,’ that people have, even if they don’t agree necessarily with the cause. And, in another side of this project, I want to call on the Church to not simply provide charity, which they have done for centuries, but to implement long-term change and protection for immigrants and refugees everywhere.”

“It’s been an incredible experience to work with Tania on this project for the last several months, and we’re looking forward to her return to the SMU campus and Dallas this week in a project that engages our entire community,” said Noah Simblist, associate professor and chair of the Division of Art at SMU Meadows School of the Arts. “One of the best aspects of the Meadows Prize is that it supports the development of original works of art that have roots in our community while addressing issues on a global scale—and mounting ‘The Francis Effect’ throughout Dallas is the perfect embodiment of that mission. In addition, we’ll soon begin work on a book about this wide-reaching event, summarizing its activities with three institutions in three cities across the country – the Guggenheim in New York, the Santa Monica Museum in California and SMU in Dallas.”

The Meadows School awarded Bruguera its annual Meadows Prize arts residency in January 2013. The Meadows Prize is awarded to pioneering artists and scholars with an emerging international profile, active in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within the Meadows School. The aim of the prize is to connect artists at the forefront of their fields with Meadows School students and the broader community. During her spring and fall 2013 residency at Meadows, Bruguera conducted workshops with students, gave public lectures and participated in a forum titled “Interdisciplinary Arts and the City: A Forum on Site and Social Spaces,” joining artists from across the U.S. and Meadows faculty to discuss site-specific art practices and community engagement.

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban-born interdisciplinary artist working primarily in behavior art, performance, installation and video – with much of her work pivoting around growing concerns about the political representation and conditions facing immigrants. Her work has been featured in Documenta 11 in Germany and in the Venice, Johannesburg, São Paolo, Shanghai and Havana biennials. In March 2011, Bruguera began a five-year social project, Immigrant Movement International, the first year of which was sponsored by Meadows Prize winner Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art. IM International functions as a think tank for immigrant issues; from its storefront headquarters in Corona, Queens, Bruguera and other staff and volunteers offer free educational, artistic and consciousness-raising activities to a community of immigrants. Bruguera is a proponent of “arte útil” (useful art), meaning art that can be implemented in people’s lives in ways that address social and political problems.

About the Meadows Prize

Inaugurated in October 2009, the Meadows Prize is awarded annually to up to two pioneering artists and scholars active in a discipline represented by one of the academic units within the Meadows School: advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. Possible addition: The prize includes support for a minimum four-week residency in Dallas, in addition to a $25,000 stipend. In return, recipients are expected to interact in a substantive way with Meadows students and collaborating arts organizations, and to leave a lasting legacy in Dallas.

The Meadows Prize is sponsored by the Meadows School and The Meadows Foundation. Previous winners of the Meadows Prize were Grammy-winning contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird and New York-based public arts organization Creative Time (2010); playwright and performer Will Power and choreographer Shen Wei, artistic director of New York-based Shen Wei Dance Arts (2011); Tony-winning playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh and choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Dublin-based Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre (2012); violist Nadia Sirota and socio-political artist Tania Bruguera (2013); and choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder and artistic director of New York-based dance company Urban Bush Women (2014).

About Meadows School of the Arts

The Meadows School of the Arts, formally established in 1969 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computing, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. The goal of the Meadows School of the Arts, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and change.

The Meadows School of the Arts is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research. For more information, visit here.