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Immigration art in Minnesota skyways

Industry News, News | April 20, 2018 | By:

More than 30,000 skyway pedestrians as well as thousands of street-level commuters and motorists are expected to view St. Paul, Minn., through new Americans’ eyes as they pass an exhibit dedicated to immigrants’ experiences. Photos: Peter Von De Linde.

The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. The call to “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free” has been a source of inspiration for people around the world to emigrate for a better life.

Artist Nancy Ann Coyne wanted to explore the meaning of home for immigrants in Minnesota. A native New Yorker, Coyne was also intrigued by the Twin Cities’ iconic skyway systems, the networks of enclosed pedestrian walkways that connect downtown buildings above the street level.

Ultimately, she created Speaking of Home, a public art project that explores the meaning of home for Twin Cities immigrants and refugees. Using the windows of the St. Paul skyways as a backdrop, Coyne and her team installed larger-than-life photographs of local immigrants’ family photos brought from their native countries.

The exhibit features photographs in a span of 600 feet, accompanied by text panels with individuals’ biographies, interview excerpts describing what they gave up or fled from
and the lives they have created in Minnesota. Overhead panels feature the word “home” in each of their native languages.

Designtex, New York, N.Y., printed the 10-foot-by-12-foot semi-transparent black-and-white photographs on a translucent scrim provided by Fisher Fabrics. HP sponsored the ink.

Throughout the day and night, the skyways attract attention as architectural light boxes. By using the translucent fabric, Coyne lets people walking by see themselves and their reactions to the photographs in the émigrés faces, looking at—and through—them in the skyway windows. The exhibit opens up a discussion about the meaning of home, immigration and welcoming the stranger. For more information, visit

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