Over Continents and Oceans
An architectural video projection by Tiffany Carbonneau
T.J. Sokol Hall, Crete, Nebraska 2018
From the mid 19th to the mid 20th Century, economic and political factors led millions of Europeans to immigrate the United States in search of a better life. Following the new railroad, many of these migrants found their way to Nebraska, where land was available and affordable, and became the pioneers of many Nebraskan Communities. Written in Czech and other languages, advertisements for cheap land in the American Plains were dispersed at immigrant landing ports across the East Coast of the United States, leading to over 50,000 Czechs to immigrate to Nebraska between 1856 and 1915. Founded in 1884, the Telocvicna Jednota Sokol (translated from Czech as “Sokol Physical Training Union”) served as a meeting hall and health center for the large Czech immigrant community in Crete, Nebraska.
Similarly, since World War II, a complexity of influences have led people from all over the world to come to the United States in search of economic sustainability and freedom from religious, racial, and political persecution, including Nebraska, where they play a vital role in the support and advancement of prosperous Nebraskan industries. The promise of work in the meatpacking industry has brought a wave of immigrants and refugees to Crete in the past few decades. With a population of around 7,000 people, this small rural Nebraskan town has grown from 13.5% Latino in the 2000 census to 35.7% Latino in the 2010 census, giving Crete a rich multicultural community and a much needed boost in population and economic growth.
Representing over 200 years of immigration to Nebraska and the United States, Over Continents and Oceans was an architectural video projection in Crete, Nebraska, that illuminated the front facade of the historic T.J. Sokol Hall, a community and health center built by and for Czech immigrants at the turn of the 20th Century. Overlaying historic photographs, found film, animated data from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics and artworks exploring ancestral histories created by Crete Middle School students, this work highlighted similarities between all American stories of ancestry and settlement, blurred the lines between past and present struggles for asylum and financial security, and celebrated the important influence that immigration has had in making the United States the culturally rich and economically stable country that it is today.
At the time this work was exhibited, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes were making their annual stop in Central Nebraska on their way to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, widely known as one of the world’s greatest migrations. The title of this work was taken from the definition of a flyway, the path that birds follow in search of food and nesting locations, in which they travel “Over Continents and Oceans.”
A special thanks to Meghan Gaul, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Doane University, Rhea Gill, Executive Director of Arts are Basic, Linda Kalbach, Director of Secondary Education at Doane University, and Crete Middle School Art, Music, and Social Studies teachers, Kelli Wilke, Lacey Franzen, and Shawn Carr for all their help in making this projection possible.
This work was supported by Doane University and was conducted as part of the Doane University Department of Art 2018 Artist in Residence program.