Art Exhibition: When We First Arrived…


When We First Arrived … curated by Ruth Noack
The Corner at Whitman-Walker, 1701 14th St. NW, Washington DC 20009
Exhibition Dates: Saturday, January 25, 2020 to Sunday, March 29, 2020
Hours: Wed-Sat 12-6 pm, Sun 1/26 and Sun 3/29, 2-5 pm and the entry is free.


Do you know where the children are?

DYKWTCA is a call to action and exhibition of 100+ unique works of art by 100+ leading visual artists that is organized by the artists and activists Mary Ellen Carroll and Lucas Michael. Each work incorporates, or represents an actual account (in whole or in part) from a child who was separated from their family and detained by the U.S. government. This text may be in the native language of the child or a translation into English. The accounts are taken from the interviews that were conducted by the Flores investigators that included legal, medical and mental health experts who visited the detention facilities six months ago in June of 2019. Upon witnessing the deplorable, inhumane, and illegal conditions they found the children in, they decided it was necessary to act upon their findings. They went public.

The artists, acting in solidarity with the whistleblowers and the children for DYKWTCA include: Julie Mehretu, Jesse Presley Jones, Kay Rosen, Amy Sillman, Walead Beshty, Paul Pfeiffer, Dan Graham, Molly Gochman, Boris Torres, POPE.L, Lisa Tan and Johnny Chang, and Xaviera Simmons—just to name a few.

The works of art will initially be exhibited at the new, non-collecting cultural institution designed by Selldorf Architects, The Corner at Whitman-Walker in Washington, D.C. Ruth Noack, the new executive director of The Corner will curate these works in the exhibition, When We First Arrived … that will open on Saturday, January 25, 2020 and run until Saturday, March 28, 2020. The sale/donation process will be announced shortly and the will support the following organizations: Safe Passage Project, Terra Firma, Team Brownsville, and the Innovation Law Lab. The artists were invited to produce works with the Flores accounts that were made available through the public awareness initiative Project Amplify.

There are nearly 7,000 unaccompanied children (UACs) that are seeking asylum in the United States, and are being detained by the U.S. federal government right now. Under the Migration Protection Protocol (MPP), colloquially referred to as the Remain in Mexico program, that figure in Mexico is over 15,000 unaccompanied kids.* As per the 1997 Flores Settlement, children shall not be detained for longer than 72 hours by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and 20 days by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). There is also a minimum of care for drinking water, hygiene articles, hot meals, showers, clothing, medical care, bedding, clean linens, temperature, activities, and consular and telephone access in their native language. The Flores Settlement is presently under threat to be overturned and the amicus briefs will be filed by January 28, 2020. If overturned, this means there would be zero oversight of the U.S. government for the detention and separation of children seeking asylum in the U.S. The duration of the detention of the children is being exceeded. The minimum standards of care are not being met.

This is illegal.
This is inhumane.
There is no end in sight.

It is proposed that exhibitions of the works will continue through the 2020 election for the duration of one year with additional venues to be announced. The compressed timing is by design; there is no time to wait, only time to act. It is important to note that there is a history of institutions sponsoring refugees for asylum. A most notable, yet a forgotten history is MoMA’s sponsoring of refugees during WWII. MoMA’s first director, Alfred Barr, with the art historian Margaret Scolari, were instrumental in MoMA’s sponsoring of artists that were refugees seeking asylum in the United States during WWII. This included: Tanguy, Masson, Ernst, Chagall, Mondrian, and Lipchitz.

DYKWTCA demonstrates that artists can take the lead as activists, and partner with institutions and foundations to provide the institutional and financial framework to support the necessary work to address one, if not the most pressing, inhumane and illegal, issues of our lifetime. It is being perpetrated against the most vulnerable—children—by the most powerful: the U.S. government.

The process is as important to the public awareness of the issue, as are the works of art themselves as a material record of the acts being perpetrated against the most vulnerable. The series of works of art will be made available at a set price of $500 and a random selection process will determine the work of art that one will receive. The process will be secure, ordered, and transparent. The transactions will remain anonymous until all of the works are acquired, registered, and transferred. There is a limit of two works of art per entity/person. The works of art and DYKWTCA’s utilization of the Flores accounts is a part of the broader public awareness initiative Project Amplify. All of the proceeds will support the following organizations: Safe Passage Project with Terra Firma, Innovation Law Lab, and Team Brownsville. (Larger donations will of course be accepted.) Volunteers run most of these organizations, or they are on the frontline for immigration, policy, and legal work at the border, and for the most vulnerable — the children.

The amount is reasonable by design and was arrived at after consulting with a number of organizations and individuals that specialize in charitable giving, ensuring that a plurality will be able to participate in the acquisition process. There will be matching commitments from private foundations and individuals. Anticipating that all of the works will be placed, the total amount with the foundations and individuals could reach four times the amount that will be raised from the artists. It is important to note that the artists are taking the lead and engaging the foundations and institutions. The works will create a material history of the atrocities being perpetrated against the most innocent. They will not aestheticize the atrocities; they will create a physical record that also effects the issue through the financial support it will provide.

The initial donor/owner shall hold the works of art for five years. If they are sold before that time, the proceeds will be split equally between the seller, the artist, and one of the organizations mentioned above. The works of art and the Flores accounts selected by the artists will be registered with Artory and the Winston Art Group to ensure that the provenance for each work is kept in the public, as well as the history of the children. The registration process utilizes a blockchain mechanism for public transparency as well as indelibility, and is also a deterrent to speculation



Saturday, March 28, 2020, from 2 to 6 pm at The Corner at Whitman Walker A panel on immigration, and legal, medical and mental health from LGBTQ perspectives.

Details will be announced shortly via and social media: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook: @DYKWTCA If you use social media also please tag: #DYKWTCA


Cande Aguilar, Ricci Albenda, Bill Allen, Marina Ancona, Carolina Antich, Catalina Antonia Granados, Polly Apfelbaum, Michele Asselin and Glenda Carpio, Davide Balula, Walead Beshty, Paige K. B., Eric Brown, Robert Buck, Dietmar Busse, Ambreen Butt, Mary Ellen Carroll, York Chang, Mel Chin, David Colman, Beatriz Cortez, Tony Cox, Jessica Craig-Martin, Anna Daučíková, Shezad Dawood, Lorenzo De Los Angeles, Beto De Volder and Leon Villagran, Anne Delaney, Alyssa De Luccia, Liz Deschenes, Vikram Divecha, Cirilo Domine, Trisha Donnelly, Joanne Dugan, The Dufala Brothers—Billy Dufala and Steven Dufala, Jack Early, EIDIA House (Paul Lamarre and Melissa P. Wolf), Manuel Esnoz, Rochelle Feinstein, Patricia Fernández, Avram Finkelstein, Jean Foos, Eve Fowler, Ivan Gaete, Molly Gochman, Camilo Godoy, Terence Gower, Dan Graham, John Hanning, Graciela Hasper, Karolyn Hatton, Dana Hoey, Ashley Hunt, Samuel Jablon, Jesse Presley Jones, Rhea Karam, David Kelley, Maria Kent and Erin Leland, Jon Kessler, Elisabeth Kley, Alice Könitz, Josh Lehrer, Cary Leibowitz, Simon Leung, Siobhan Liddell, Matt Lipps, Tod Lippy, Mary Lum, Eva Lundsager, Brian Maguire, Yeni Mao, Jessica Mein, Julie Mehretu**, Lucas Michael, Wardell Milan, Katrina Moorhead, Carlos Motta, Jason Murphy, Antony Nagelmann, Kambui Olujimi, Jeanine Oleson, Anneé Olofsson, Ruby Osorio, Spencer Ostrander, Arthur Ou, Paul Pfeiffer, Pope.L, Gala Porras-Kim, Liliana Porter, Luiza Prado de O. Martins, Barbara Probst, Rob Pruitt, Kim Pterodactyl, Adam Putnam, Michael Rakowitz, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Ugo Rondinone, Kay Rosen, Alejandra Seeber, Alexandro Segade, Kang Seung Lee, Anna Sew Hoy, Amy Sillman, Laurie Simmons, Xaviera Simmons, Pamela Sneed, A.L. Steiner, Berend Strick, Lisa Tan and Johnny Chang, Steed Taylor, Ana Tiscornia, Lincoln Tobier, Julie Tolentino, Fred Tomaselli, Boris Torres, Marguerite Van Cook, Rafael Viñoly, Lawrence Weiner, Judi Werthein, Barbara Westermann, Summer Wheat, Bob Witz

If you would like to immediately make a tax-deductible donation to support the organizations as there is no time to wait, only time to act, please go to:

* The number of unaccompanied children in the United States and Mexico are the September 2019 figures from the required reporting for the Flores agreement. As per the ACLU, it is estimated that there are over 1 million refugees in Mexico that are seeking asylum in the United States.

**The contribution of the work of art by Julie Mehretu to DYKWTCA was placed prior to the formal organization of the public donations/sale of the works of art for the organizations that DYKWTCA is in solidarity with. It will benefit the organizations as per all the works exhibited.

Quotes from the artists involved:

Amy Sillman: “When I read the interviews, which were shocking, I realized that the detainees are being warehoused as goods– beneath even animals, just treated as cold storage. Their stories of life in freezing cages, so crowded that one cannot often sit down, without beds, blankets, clean water, and with lights kept on 24/7, amount to atrocity. Though my own paintings are abstract, abstraction is not neutral or pure. The angry and despairing images entered my work as spills, stains, fragmented objects and marks strewn across empty grounds. I am consciously including these forms in the language of my paintings to reflect these horrific stories. They need to be read, and the feelings they elicit (rage, discomfort, chaos) need to be felt sharply. My work is now imbued with these feelings.”

Boris Torres: “When I read about the interviews with the kids in the Flores transcripts— I realized that those kids could be me, or anyone in my family. I immigrated to the U.S. as a kid from Ecuador for a better life. I think if I had gone through any of the horrible things that those kids are being put through—it would have destroyed me. I think the U.S. is breaking these kids physically and mentally. It is evil. It makes me ashamed of our country, and what America stands for.”

Dan Graham: “This photograph goes back to my childhood fears… and, I think we all had those fears.”

Molly Gochman: “As a native Texan, I have witnessed firsthand the discrimination that immigrants face in the United States. I have heard from friends who visited detention centers, and from lawyers representing those detained. I have heard the stories of those who are separated from their families, and read transcripts from underfunded courtrooms operating far beyond capacity. It is devastating. That all of this occurs in the name of “security” and “safety” is the greatest farce of all.”

Xaviera Simmons: “ For as long as the American project has been in existence, the government in all of it’s founding, colonial and modern activities has worked to separate individuals from families, babies from mothers, and men from partners. Part of the narrative of the American project is to continuously disrupt and abuse the lives of those with the least, or those whom it has been at war with in some form. This is a defining feature of the United States and one along with a multitude of other defining features we should question, learn from, and work against at every turn.”

Cande Aguilar: “Children are the greatest gift to us all, it’s where we can simultaneously see our future and our past, and in some ways eternity. Always make sure they are ok, and always do the right thing for a child.”