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New American students find their voice with Utah artist

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Refugee and new American students at a local high school recently participated in a creative art workshop, made possible thanks to Milad Hosseini-Mozari, an artist and educator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The workshop aimed to guide the students in finding their voice and expressing their artistic ability .

Milad Hosseini-Mozari, a Utah artist, teaches the International Rescue Committee's New Americans in Action student group about sound collage.
Artist Milad Hosseini-Mozari partnered with the IRC and New Americans in Action to teach students about sound collages and give them the chance to express their artistic ability. Photo: Christian Casas/IRC

Milad, a Utah native, approached the digital inclusion team at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City about a collaboration to provide refugee students with an opportunity to explore art—something that can be difficult for them to readily access in their new home. Milad worked with Christian Casas, digital inclusion coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, to develop a curriculum that would incorporate both their personal strengths and abilities, including incorporating technology, as well as providing equity and opportunity for students to express their creativity. The idea they developed was an interdisciplinary workshop allowing students to experience and create sound collages—a digital form of art that combines sounds and videos. 

At the end of the workshop, the students had the chance to create their own collage. Working in groups, students used their phones to take photos and videos, record sounds, and compile them into collages using free on-line software. Christian felt the workshop was valuable for the students, that “…it gave [them] a voice. The workshop was an opportunity to break from mundanity but also create a space to show new opportunities and to possibly showcase someone’s talents. Let kids know they have a voice and that voice can be heard and can take many forms.”

Students were given this opportunity as part of an elective course, New Americans in Action, which was created in partnership with the IRC in Salt Lake City and is specifically designed for refugee and new American students. The course focuses on serving the refugee population by providing a safe space for students to gain new experiences without worrying about language barriers or social norms.

The sound collage workshop gave students a platform to express their creativity, take control of their stories and find a comfortable way of re-telling stories they are repeatedly asked to share. Christian explained that “over and over again [the students] are told to tell their story; their story can take many forms and can be explored in many avenues. [This opportunity was a] way [for students] to share and express stories, ideas and perceptions while they are in a formative stage of life.”

Do you have an engaging idea for our New Americans in Action class? Let us know by emailing us at SaltLakeCity [at] rescue.org (subject: New%20Americans%20in%20Action%20-%20Inquiry%20) .