Sarah Barnard organized a probono art and design project featuring local artists and a the National Immigrantion Law Center, one of the leading organizations in the U.S. dedicated to defending and advancing the rights to low income immigrants.
National Immigration Law Center recently expanded/relocated. Their new suite would nearly triple the square footage of their existing space (almost 13,000). NILC is a non-profit and has extremely limited financial resources. Sarah Barnard Design was asked to take on the project on a pro-bono basis through the 1% for Design Program. In addition to creating specifications for the construction project and overseeing the interior design/furnishings purchasing, Barnard curated a long term exhibition for the organization that would feature 16 artists from around the globe. The artworks were created specifically for NILC’s space and with their organization mission in mind.
Defend & Advance is a temporary exhibit of 39 original artworks by 16 artists that celebrates the establishment of the National Immigration Law Center’s permanent art collection. With broadly varied approaches and narratives, the artists in this exhibition explore current conditions of immigration and migration, displacement and labor, and struggle against collective amnesia. The artists are from a diverse range of geographic, political and social backgrounds. Considering their work in dialogue allows us not only to reflect on their differences but also to consider their shared concerns. The exhibit offers new perspectives on issues we may have previously thought familiar. The curation seeks to discover shared experiences that can be explored in conversation and used to promote intellectual and emotional engagement with the subjects being presented. The artwork becomes a critical component in the overall design experience.
The designer was entirely responsible for curating the works commissioned for the space. Selecting from a pool of nearly 300 applicants, 16 exceptional artists were selected to create site specific works for National Immigration Law Center. Working closely with the fine artists, Barnard encouraged works that explore controversial political themes and offer opportunities to contemplate socio-political issues that affect us all. Access to healthy foods and education, farmworker rights, border politics, the terror of uncertainty, domestic worker rights, transportation issues, and the plight of the refugee are some of the many poignant themes explored in the works exhibited. Painting, print making, photography, mixed media installation and fiber sculpture are among the mediums employed by the participating artists. The curator/designer held a artists potluck at her home so that the artists might form permanent relationships with one another prior to the show opening. While the design project helps NILC staff to work more productively, the art installation encourages hope by way of connecting people with ideas and each other. This collaboration of designers, artists and non-profit attorneys to promote social justice may be the first partnership of its kind.
Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants. NILC believes that all people who live in the U.S.—regardless of their race, gender, immigration and/or economic status—should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Over the years NILC has been at the forefront of many of the country’s greatest challenges when it comes to immigration issues, and plays a major leadership role in addressing the real-life impact of polices that affect the ability of low-income immigrants to prosper and thrive.
Sarah Barnard is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), is certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and is recognized by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology as a Building Biology Practitioner (BBP) and by the United States Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). She has served on the Santa Monica Conservancy's board of directors and specializes in sustainable interior design and historic preservation.