My summer consisted of traveling for my honors thesis, which has come a long way since it’s conception last Spring. Artist Eric Leleu, who lectured at FSU in the Spring, inspired me to study and explore the representation of migrants in art throughout Europe. His work focused on Calais, so I set my sights on exploring this refugee camp at first, but soon found the city to be a place filled with exhibitions in galleries and museums exploring the subject.
My trip began in Copenhagen, where I attended an Arts and Humanities conference with other scholars in migration and diaspora studies. A documentary film maker and I explored the galleries, streets, and museums together to find spaces where migrants were being discussed and talk to people working to understand the solutions for border politics. Next, I traveled to Paris, where I saw multiple exhibits and galleries on the topic, although the medium that struck me as politically driven and ever-present was street art. I began to photograph every work I saw on the walls of Paris and compare them to the works or narrative in the formal museum or gallery. In London, I attended a symposium on the future of beyond the west, which explored narratives of migrants and those outside of the western nationalist artistic context. The perspectives on films and artwork being created in the twenty-first century to explore the situation of migrants and their futures reminded me of the street art that I was viewing.
Now, my thesis focus is on street art as activism in France regarding the formal exhibitions that I have seen and further research during the Spring semester. Recurrent themes throughout my field work and studies are on the issue of globalization, climate change, and resource management in contributing to the global migration crisis. Even this term needs more clarification, which I hope to be able to achieve with further research and reflection.
I also interned with the FSU Museum of Fine Arts and Earthen Warrior, an environmentally conscious brand that has a zero-waste mission. During my time at MoFA, I assisted in curating, researching, and received guidance for my research. Earthen Warrior taught me about branding and sourcing materials to create a successful brand that can be fully environmentally friendly and accessible to its audience. My hope is to work in arts activism as a career, therefore, these experiences have given me connections to artists and professionals working to help the earth and its inhabitants live a life of expression and understanding.
Paris Gilstrap is a third-year honors student from Orlando, Florida. She is pursuing a dual degree in international affairs and art history with a minor in museum studies.