Fiskum Gallery to display photo essay of refugee families in the state

The upcoming exhibit “Here, There and Elsewhere: Refugee Families in Milwaukee” looks at immigrant families from Milwaukee through photographs.

Photographer John Ruebartsch will have his photos of refugee families living in Milwaukee on display from Feb. 15 to March 5 in Roberta’s Gallery. Ruebartsch is an immigrant himself, so the project was very interesting to him, he said. Photo submitted

Milwaukee native John Ruebartsch took the photos of refugee families living in Milwaukee for the project.

Ruebartsch said he photographed people from communities including the Hmong, Laotian, Somali Bantu, Somali, Sudanese and Buranese communities.

“I found [the families] through Sally Kuzma, who works at the International Learning Center as a teacher of English as a second language, where a lot of the refugee population goes to learn English,” Ruebartsch said. “A lot of these people can’t speak English very well.”

Ruebartsch and Kuzma found the families by putting out the word that they would like to do a photo project and visit families where they live.

“I see this [exhibit] as an introduction to new people that are coming to Milwaukee that a lot of us don’t even know exist,” Ruebartsch said. “It’s kind of like the new face of immigration, and a lot of these people are refugees. It’s a photo essay of these newcomers.”

Ruebartsch said he wants students and community members to come to the exhibit so they can see what immigrants are like today.

“The photographs are beautiful, and they’re positive, so I think people will like them,” Ruebartsch said.

Sophomore Student Mananger of Roberta’s Gallery Ella Hopkins said the exhibit brings awarness to students and faculty members.

“Whitewater is pretty modern and middle class and this way people will be able to see into the lives of Americans that they might not know much about who come from different backgrounds or are living in different situations,” Hopkins said.

Ruebartsch said he can relate to the families he photographs, because he’s an immigrant also.

“I was born in Germany,” Ruebartsch said. “My parents are refugees from Eastern Europe. We immigrated to California, and we went through a similar thing that these people are going through. Learning English, integrating themselves into the society. They do jobs that we don’t necessarily want to do. So for me, this is a very interesting project.

“The face of our society is changing.”

There will be roughly 33 to 35 photos, Ruebartsch said.

The exhibit will be on display from Feb. 15 to March 5 in the Roberta’s Gallery in the University Center.

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