Former U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will appear in conversation with book artist and UCSC alumna Felicia Rice on March 6, at the Museum of Art and History in downtown Santa Cruz.
Together, they will explore the role that poetry and art can play in talking about today’s urgent issues of immigration, belonging, and home.
Herrera and Rice will be joined in this free community event by representatives of local groups working on social justice and immigration issues, including local filmmaker Brenda Avila-Hanna.
UC Santa Cruz literature professor Kirsten Silva Gruesz will moderate the evening’s conversation, and attendees will be given the opportunity to contribute to a collaborative piece collecting community stories.
Borderbus is a new book project created by Rice in collaboration with Herrera. It is a rendering of one long poem of the same name by Herrera, the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States (2015-17) and the first Latino to hold the position.
The poem takes place on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus, in which two women have been detained while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. As they are being transported to a detention center, they speak in English and Spanish, whispering to avoid the attention of the guard.
The poem’s text is embedded in prints by Rice and interpreted in audio recordings of the poem.
Rice notes that Borderbus began out of necessity from “an urgent need to generate work that points to one of the most difficult issues of our time: the conditions experienced by refugees at our borders in the face of nationalistic extremism.”
“As a printer, my job is to confront complex issues and render my response to them in book form,” said Rice. “As an artist, my job is to do so with profound integrity. As a publisher, my job is to make these issues public. As printers have done every decade since Gutenberg, I’m here to respond to the ongoing tragedy of dehumanization and to argue for a more just society.”
Rice (Cowell ’78) received her degree from UC Santa Cruz as an independent major in Fine Art Printing. She is the sole proprietor of Moving Parts Press in Santa Cruz. Her work has been included in exhibitions and collections both nationally and internationally, from AIGA Annual Book Shows in New York and Frankfurt, to the Victoria & Albert Museum.
She was recently featured in the PBS series, “Craft in America: Visionaries” which aired nationwide on December 21, 2018.
Rice noted that it is important to bring discussions about immigration to the community and invite other people–both in academia and in social justice organizations—to be part of the conversation.
“This is a community issue,” said Rice. “Members of our Santa Cruz community are confronting these issues daily on a personal level and through aid organizations, getting the help they need. We have to be there for one another–this is why community exists.”
“Poetry and art can bring critical issues out into the light; these art forms can build bridges between multiple factions in our communities,” she added.
This event is co-sponsored by the University Library and The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, Moving Parts Press, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.
Borderbus: A Community Conversation About Migration, Art, and Social Justice will take place on March 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz (705 Front Street). Admission is free and open to the public.