Familias Separadas, created and led by Michelle Angela Ortiz, is a series of temporary site-specific public art works that mark the locations and documents stories of immigrant families affected by deportations in the city of Philadelphia. The main goal of the project is to shift the focus on the statistics/ numbers of deportations and see the father, mother, brother that has been torn apart from their families.
For over a year and a half, she worked with undocumented youth and families from Juntos, a Latino immigrant community-led organization. Michelle collected audio stories from undocumented families that reveal the moment their loved ones were deported and how their lives changed before and after deportation.
Familias Separadas was highlighted in the Open Source project led by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. In October 2015, she unveiled several temporary large-scale site-specific public art works in Philadelphia that included the Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), Compass Rose at the City Hall Courtyard, Love Park, and the 9th Street Market.
At the ICE building, she led over 30 volunteers, community members, and undocumented families from Juntos to install the words of Ana, an undocumented mother detained at Berks Detention Center. ICE agents looked on as we installed the 90' long stenciled words, 'WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS, RISKING OUR LIVES, FOR OUR FAMILIES AND OUR FUTURE" in front of a building that represents fear and is the first step of the process of deportation. See the short timelapse video of this installation here.
This project received the 2016 Americans for the Arts Public Art Year in Review Award. Telling these stories is crucial especially during the current national anti-immigrant climate. Receiving this recognition is so valuable because it honors the importance of presenting in public spaces the stories of our undocumented immigrant communities that are often unheard in our country.