This fall, Elgin Community College alumna Norma Santaolaya and I curated the Venezuelan Art Exhibition, titled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” as part of the Latinx Heritage Month 2023 celebrations. We put our time, energy, and passion into creating this vulnerable gallery, which gave voice to the lives of our local Venezuelan migrants. Although Latinx Heritage Month has come to a close, the celebration of our culture and recognition of the Venezuelan migrants lives on through the gallery, which can be found in the ECC Renner Academic Library hallway.
It is important for ECC to recognize and become educated in the Venezuelan migrant crisis because they have gone through many mental, physical, and emotional obstacles and have overcome them in the pursuit of happiness, which is why our title and overall theme of the art exhibition centers around this pursuit, portraying why they’ve taken their challenging and unique journeys here. This display allows ECC and the local Elgin community to see a different perspective of things, humanizing what we sometimes only hear through sound bites and clips on the news.
The individuals who participated in the exhibition are asylum seekers and refugees looking for a better life than the previous one given to them. They are the hope for fellow immigrants seeking the same happiness and better life opportunities. The “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” art exhibition gives the Venezuelan crisis a voice they had never had before and gives us all a different perspective on the lives of others.
This exhibition is important and close to me because I was an asylum seeker at nine years old looking for a better life, one with opportunities and happiness. I can relate to the obstacles they have gone through and may still be going through to find and settle into a better life for themselves and their families. It is so easy to forget how blessed each opportunity we have is when we go about our days as usual. This gallery will provide us with a reality check that there are people in different places around the world who are seeking the same opportunities and happiness we have and are willing to overcome any obstacle in their way.
The art galleries at ECC have done an amazing job of allowing student artists to showcase their hard work and share their passion with the campus and community. Through the help of my fellow curator Norma, ECC student workers, and Juan Fernandez, director of art and design, I believe we were truly able to honor the lives and journeys of Venezuelan migrants.
Esbeyda Garcia Diaz, ECC student