So Utica is The Town that Loves Refugees – but do those refugees love Utica back?
The project Refugees Starting Over in Utica, NY (“Starting Over”) set out to answer this question.
Starting Over started to take shape in early April 2012. It began as an idea from Dr. Kathryn Stam of SUNY Poly for a cultural series to take place in December 2012 at SUNYIT. Starting Over was meant to highlight the resettlement of refugees in Utica, NY – who they are, why they came and why they stayed. The project was designed to connect students with community members.
Starting Over began developed around four events: a collaborative gallery show, Utica Firefly event and film, puppet making children’s activity and human rights lecture to kick off the series. Additional events were added over time- an Asian Folk Music Hour at the Utica Music and Arts Fest in September 2012, a “sneak peek” to Starting Over at the UNSPOKEN events in October 2012 and awareness and music events in Spring 2013. Additionally, the web presence of the project became an important lasting element on its own.
The Starting Over Gallery Show, as the premier event in the series in Dec. 2012, was a collaborative show with contributions by students, refugees, and any of the groups and individuals who serve the refugee community in Utica, NY. It was curated by Kathryn Stam, SUNY Poly Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Kevin Volo, SUNY Poly Instructional Technologist, and Katie Reilly, SUNY Poly graduate student.
Through a collaborative process with students, staff, and community members, the project has evolved into an information hub by, for, and about refugees.
There is an active Facebook page and Youtube channel. Some of their events continue to be sponsored and coordinated by SUNY Poly Cultural and Performing Arts Committee, while some are sponsored in collaboration with the Midtown Utica Community Center.