Entertainment Magazine: Tucson: Events: December

Special Exhibitions Focusing on Immigration in AZ’s Past

Saturday, December 5-February 14
“Bittersweet Harvest”
at the Tucson Desert Art Museum
7000 E. Tanque Verde Road, Suite 16

On December 5th, the Tucson Desert Art Museum will open two new exhibitions, both exploring topics of migration and migrant labor. With U.S. border issues and the European migrant crisis in the media spotlight. The exhibitions are particularly timely today, providing a historical, local perspective to an ongoing, universal issue.

The first exhibit “Bittersweet Harvest” is a bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition from the Smithsonian. It explores the little-known story of the Bracero program; the largest guest worker program in U.S history. Between 1942 and 1964, millions of Mexican men came to the United States on short-term labor contracts. Both bitter and sweet, the Bracero experience tells a story of exploitation but also of opportunity. This traveling exhibition will be on view at from December 5, 2015 through February 14, 2016.

This exhibition is organized into three main sections that explore the braceros’ motivations and expectations for the journey north, the work they did and the effects the Bracero program had on family and communities in Mexico and the United States. “Bittersweet Harvest” features the work of famed photojournalist Leonard Nadel as well as oral histories collected by the Bracero Oral History Project.

The exhibition was organized by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and funded by the Smithsonian Latino Center. “SITES is deeply gratified to share with the nation a central part of American labor history of which so few are aware,” said Myriam Springuel, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

“Bittersweet Harvest” at the Tucson Desert Art Museum will also include art generously loaned by CALACA Cultural Center, an organization based in Tempe, Arizona, whose mission is to preserve and promote Latino and Indigenous cultural arts.

The second exhibit, “The Dirty Thirties: New Deal Photographers Frame the Migrants’ Stories,” follows the journeys of “Okies” fleeing the Dust Bowl, drought, and economic difficulties during the 1930s. In desperate search for jobs, thousands of former farmers left their homes in the Southern Plains states and set off to the cotton fields of Arizona and the “Promised Land” of California, where supposedly work could be found.

The story is told through the compelling documentary photography taken under the auspices of the New Deal programs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The exhibit includes over 70 rarely exhibited photos by renowned documentary photographers Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Russell Lee. This Tucson Desert Art Museum original exhibition, curated by Alyssa Travis and Carol Charnley, will be on view from December 5, 2015 through March 31, 2016.

“Back in the 1930s, FDR utilized the power of photography to help mobilize the nation to support federal programs to assist those who were struggling. Today, we see how photos, such as the tragic image of a little boy who lost his life fleeing Syria, have played a key role in raising awareness of the European migration crisis and promoting action,” said Associate Curator Alyssa Travis. “The photographs featured in these exhibitions provide human faces to Arizona’s historic migration issues and give us a new way of looking at migration issues at home and abroad.”

The Tucson Desert Art Museum will be hosting a Sneak Peek event on Friday, December 4th, 5:30-7:30pm. Local musician, Ted Warmbrand, will set the stage for the exhibitions, singing about the Dust Bowl and times of troubles in the agricultural fields. Light refreshments will be available. The event will be $5 for visitors and free for Museum members.

The Museum will also host free lecture events in January and February for those curious about the Bracero program, migration in the 1930s and New Deal Art in Arizona. See the museum website (www.tucsondart.org) for more information.

About the Tucson Desert Art Museum

The Tucson Desert Art Museum is a non-profit museum, whose mission is to display art and artifacts of the Desert Southwest and to educate their guests about the history, cultures and art of the region.

The Museum is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm Tuesday through Sunday, but will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day.


SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.

About the National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. After a two-year renovation and a dramatic transformation, the museum shines new light on American history, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.

7000 E. Tanque Verde Road, Suite 16 Tucson, AZ 85715



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