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Lisa Karrer (b. 1957), Station 1 from SHELTER, 2020; Courtesy of the artist

Lisa Karrer (b. 1957), Station 1 from SHELTER, 2020; Courtesy of the artist


On View Friday, December 11, 2020–Sunday, June 27, 2021

SHELTER is a installation by interdisciplinary artist Lisa Karrer, a native of Buffalo, NY. This multi-arts project incorporates audio soundtracks and green screen video projections embedded within a “city” of ceramic architectural forms.

SHELTER seeks to illuminate the critical role played by the city of Buffalo, where refugee organizations intersect with local communities in vitally important ways, by chronicling human truths and experiences of displaced people seeking safe homes or communities to function within.

From the very beginning, SHELTER has focused on community engagement with nonprofit organizations that support and work with displaced people and refugee communities in Buffalo. These include Jericho Road Community Health Center, Hope Refugee Drop-In Center, Vive, Priscilla Project, Stitch Buffalo, the Anne Frank Project, the International Institute, and GBUAHN. Clients and staff from these organizations are also participating in audio narrations and video scenarios that will be heard and seen throughout the exhibit.

The exhibit features eight separate “communities” or “stations” of ceramic structures, inspired by global refugee camps and stopgap shelters found around the world. Each station is a miniaturized collection of regionally specific dwellings: tents, shacks, earthen huts, slums, fragments of homes and concrete housing projects. Karrer collaborated with sculptor Bill Hochhausen on designs for the eight SHELTER table mounts ("Stations"), which Hochhausen constructed. One shelter at each station houses an audio soundtrack, featuring refugees speaking in their mother tongues, narrating stories, memories, and anecdotes. These oral narratives chronicle both the ordinary and the extraordinary things each speaker remembers, when they had homes and stable lives. English translations at any station can be accessed on cell phones via QR codes. In addition, viewers will observe miniature video figures silently engaging in simple, intimate scenes, projected within the ceramic shelters.

SHELTER presents the viewer with the content and confluence of lives disrupted by vicissitudes of displacement, caused by global terrorism and shrinking borders. The installation offers us opportunities to recognize ourselves in the narratives of people who find themselves displaced, and who urgently seek what many of us take for granted: a home, in a community where they can participate, contribute, and evolve on a daily basis.

SHELTER has received generous funding support from the NYSCA Individual Artist Program.

Explore a self-guided virtual tour of this exhibition here.