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Deputy Director of Arts & Culture Chosen to be a Cultural Facilitator in Poland

Elsa Menendez will work with Ukrainian artist refugees as part of Mother of Exiles program.

May 9, 2022 - Elsa Menendez, the recently appointed deputy director of City of Albuquerque's Department of Arts & Culture, has been chosen as a cultural facilitator/artist ambassador for the Revolutions Inc program, Mother of Exiles, working with Ukrainian artist refugees in Krakow, Poland. Menendez will be working in her official capacity as a City employee May 6-13.  

Mother of Exiles (MOE) is a theatrical, global investigation of immigration, home, bias, solidarity, and identity. A week-long, international residency program led by Menendez, Juli Hendren of Revolutions Inc, and Dagmara of Teatr Figur Krakow, MOE engages local communities using theatre, dance, music, and visual art as a vehicle for people to create artworks incorporating their stories and perspectives. MOE brings people together in safe spaces to explore personal experiences, commonalities, hardships, joy, and hope for the future, and to offer performances that cultivate mutual understanding.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this creative humanitarian outreach project. It is an honor to represent the City’s Arts and Culture Department and the Administration in a way that centers art as an imperative aspect of surviving and healing from crisis,” said Menendez.

Menendez, Hendren, and Zabska will work in the community, with both Polish citizens and recent Ukrainian refugees, to create a performance piece. The group will meet throughout the week sharing stories and creating art. Through a series of gatherings creating work together using theatre, dance, puppetry, music, the group will share their work with audiences in Krakow. The work will also be documented by Albuquerque filmmaker Aaron Hendren. Although the MOE's mission of amplifying the stories and voices of immigrants and refugees, at its core it is a project about connection, love, and hope.

"I think some folks may find it off putting to think of theatre as aid. We think of water, food, medicine but when we think of our basic human needs, they don't just stop there. At the heart of theatre is human connection," explains Hendren. "Theatre is about sharing stories, building trust, and creating new things together. There is no way to be in a theatre workshop, making new work, and not burst into laughter a few times. Creating a safe space for laughter and love is also critical."

Mother of Exiles is named for the famous Emma Lazarus poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and is also another name for the Statue. The project is produced by Revo Inc of Albuquerque in partnership with Teatr Figur Krakow of Krakow, Mother of Exiles is supported by the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the City of Albuquerque.