Hope drives us forward.
Current Exhibit
When We First Arrived…
Curated by Ruth Noack
Exhibit Information


Exhibition Dates:

Saturday, January 25, 2020 to July 19, 2020


Thursday – Friday  |  2pm – 7pm

Saturday – Sunday  |  11am – 3pm


About the Exhibit

When We First Arrived...

Over 2,000 children seeking asylum were being detained by the U.S. federal government after crossing the U.S. – Mexico border in the latest report from Office of Refugee Resettlement in April, 2020. In many cases, lengths of detention exceed the legal limit as defined in the 1997 Flores Settlement, and minimum standards of care are not being met. This is illegal, and a humanitarian and public policy crisis that warrants much greater community awareness and discourse. While Federal Judge Gee ordered the children’s release by July 17th due to the coronavirus pandemic, it remains uncertain that the families will end up reunited and safe. Additionally, many advocates are concerned that the fate of these individuals lays in the hands of ICE.

“It is our moral and ethical imperative to give an artistic platform to the accounts of detained and separated children, as collected by the Flores investigators: the lawyers and medical and mental health experts,” said The Corner’s executive director Ruth Noack. “We do this in a form befitting a cultural institution seeking to engage and educate community. While the children are being released, their experiences while detained must still be shared.”

The Corner at Whitman-Walker, a new cultural center in Washington, DC explores the human experiences of intersectionality, inequality, and social injustice through artistic expression. In an attempt to call attention to this on-going crisis for children, The Corner is re-opening a unique exhibition that highlights the injustice these families and children are still facing within the borders of the United States of America. Curated by Noack, the exhibition When We First Arrived… showcases over 100 works of art by leading visual artists, responding directly to the testimonies from children gathered by Flores investigators.

The Corner feels that the violence and abuse towards those detained should still be discussed and that community should be aware of these atrocities and the trauma that these children have endured. It is crucial that they continue to be supported by organizations engaged in advocacy and health. When We First Arrived… is organized in close collaboration with DYKWTCA (Do you know where the children are?), an initiative by artists, Mary Ellen Carroll and Lucas Michael, who invited 123 artists to produce works utilizing the Flores accounts. It is part of the broader public awareness initiative, Project Amplify, The donated works of art will sold in a benefit sale in partnership with the Innovation Law Lab, and will benefit the Innovation Law Lab, Safe Passage Project, Terra Firma, and Team Brownsville.

Continues Noack: “DYKWTCA remains at the heart of this initiative and we are very proud to be in partnership with them, by re-opening our doors to show this exhibition to the public. The Corner at Whitman-Walker is lending our own vision, creativity and resources to creating a public platform for voices of the children and the works of the artists who heeded a call to action to create a material history from these atrocious experiences and the accounts of the children.

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.”

Participating Artists

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