New LQ Museum Exhibit: The Newest Americans
May 15, 2023
Twenty-nine individuals with 29 different stories of how and why they came to the United States and what brought them to stay and become citizens make up a new traveling exhibit now on display at the La Quinta Museum.
“The Newest Americans” is a collection of photos and personal narratives in English and Spanish that tell the story of how each of the featured 29 immigrants carved a path to citizenship.
It is the work of photographer Sam Comen and reporter Michael Estrin, produced in partnership with the California Museum and traveled by Exhibit Envoy.
The exhibit participants represent 23 countries, including Mexico, Syria, Belize, India, Ecuador, Ukraine and Russia.
The reasons each gives for coming to the United States vary. Some came in search of the “American Dream” that promises opportunity and success not found in their native countries.
“Here, it’s not more freedom, it’s freedom – period,” said Harutyun Mkrtchyan of Armenia.
One woman was a teenager when her mother moved them to the United States to give her daughter a better future.
Another woman came to visit family, fell in love and stayed to build her own family.
Yet another was brought here by her love of music. Since she was a little girl, Katya Sonina of Russia “knew I wanted to be an American.”
She auditioned for Juilliard and was accepted, arriving in the United States just days before the 9/11 terror attacks.
“It was a very traumatic time because I was so happy to be at Juilliard and in America, but there was this horrible tragedy. But what I saw in New York was people coming together,” Sonina recalled in the text that accompanies her photo.
“I saw love breaking down walls and healing grief. I saw that and felt like this is my country,” she said.
The exhibit also includes a 15-question civics test that is part of the application process for citizenship, and an interactive element asking kids to list six examples of what makes them good citizens.
“The Newest Americans” is on exhibit in the first-floor gallery through July 23.
The La Quinta Museum, at 77885 Avenida Montezuma, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free.
Find out more about the La Quinta Museum, its exhibits and ongoing programs and events, at www.playinlaquinta.com, as well as Instagram and Facebook.