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In her review of “Fly to Freedom: The Art of the Golden Venture Refugees” (“Immigration Papers,” 5/4), I believe June Shih gives your readers a confusing review of the exhibit. She does a good job of providing background on the refugees; however, I think her conclusion about the quality of the artwork and its meaning misses the point of the exhibit.

For example, Shih’s characterization of certain pieces as “decidedly amateurish” might lead a reader to believe that these works could have been improved upon or somehow been made more “professionally.” However, these works are primarily on display not for their artistic value, but because they were created by detained refugees with no training other than what they learned by example from fellow detainees.

Shih also expresses a preference that the artists might have created artwork about the disaster of their shipwreck and their persecution in China. However, the refugees were seeking with their art not to tell the story of what they had escaped from (and some would understandably be too traumatized to wish to memorialize in art the crash of their ship and subsequent loss of many lives), but instead to tell the story of what the refugees hoped and dreamed life in America might mean to them, and what parts of their own culture they could bring to this country.

Deputy Director

American Immigration Law Center