St Paul skyways become galleries to tell refugee stories

Nancy Ann Coyne’s public artwork displays family photographs of immigrants and refugees across St Paul’s skyways

Due to its extreme weather, the downtown area of US city St Paul features a network of ‘skyways’ – elevated walkways which connect major buildings at second storey level. Artist, designer and photographer has turned four of them into temporary galleries for her new project, Speaking of Home.

Family photographs of 58 immigrants and refugees who live in the Twin Cities have been blown up to fill each panel of the bridges. These semi-transparent, black-and-white images turn each skyway into a giant lightbox. Each is accompanied by text telling the story of the person featured. Overhead panels feature the word ‘home’ in each person’s native language.

“Speaking of Home is designed to invert the divide between the native-born and newcomers, situating immigrants as stationary onlookers as the locals pass by and move through the city,” Coyne says. The family photographs on show would have been among the few physical reminders those featured have retained from their lives before coming to America, Coyne says. She researched the lives of hundreds of individuals of all major religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds from six different continents for the project.

Its location is particularly apt as, not only does the area have a very diverse population, but St Paul is also one of the US’s Sanctuary Cities – cities that have limited their cooperation with the US government over the enforcement of immigration law.

Speaking of Home will be on show until March 2018

All photography by Peter Von De Linde