VLC Statement On "Immigration" Executive Order

On January 27, 2017, U.S. President Trump signed an Executive Order to temporarily block citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. This order bars citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Ten days later, more than thirty cultural institutions and human rights organizations around the world, including international arts, curators' and critics' associations, organizations protecting free speech rights, as well as U.S. based performance, arts and creative freedom organizations and alliances including the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, issued a joint statement opposing the so-called Immigration Ban. Read the full statement below.

The organizations express grave concern that the Executive Order will have a broad and far-reaching impact on artists' freedom of movement and, as a result, will seriously inhibit creative freedom, collaboration, and the free flow of ideas. U.S. border regulations, the organizations argue, must only be issued after a process of deliberation which takes into account the impact such regulations would have on the core values of the country, on its cultural leadership, and on the world as a whole.

The Vera List Center champions inclusive debate of socio-political issues and stands in support of our first amendment rights in the United States. From events focusing on the dimensions of (post)democracy to issues of boycotts and disengagement to the right of Syrians to a dignified image, and the Indigenous New York initiative that recognizes New York as Indigenous territory, the Vera List Center has served as a space for fostering and debating critical positions on issues of central importance. As the scope of our programs indicates, we believe that these issues are not limited to any one country. They are shared, as is the responsibility to speak up and out. 

We believe in the political agency of the arts and that those who are committed to freedom and expansiveness must redouble their efforts to work, speak, debate, meet, and grow with them. 


February 7, 2017

Freedom of artistic expression is fundamental to a free and open society. Uninhibited creative expression catalyzes social and political engagement, stimulates the exchange of ideas and opinions, and encourages cross-cultural understanding. It fosters empathy between individuals and communities, and challenges us to confront difficult realities with compassion.

Restricting creative freedom and the free flow of ideas strikes at the heart of the core values of an open society. By inhibiting artists' ability to move freely in the performance, exhibition, or distribution of their work, United States President Trump's January 27 Executive Order, blocking immigration from seven countries to the United States and refusing entry to all refugees, jettisons voices which contribute to the vibrancy, quality, and diversity of US cultural wealth and promote global understanding.

The Executive Order threatens the United States safe havens for artists who are at risk in their home countries, in many cases for daring to challenge repressive regimes. It will deprive those artists of crucial platforms for expression and thus deprive all of us of our best hopes for creating mutual understanding in a divided world. It will also damage global cultural economies, including the cultural economy of the United States.

Art has the power to transcend historical divisions and socio-cultural differences. It conveys essential, alternative perspectives on the world. The voices of cultural workers coming from every part of the world – writers, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, and performers – are more vital than ever today, at a time when we must listen to others in the search for unity and global understanding, when we need, more than anything else, to imagine creative solutions to the crises of our time.

As cultural or human rights organizations, we urge the United States government to take into consideration all these serious concerns and to adopt any regulations of United States borders only after a process of deliberation, which takes into account the impact such regulations would have on the core values of the country, on its cultural leadership, as well as on the world as a whole.

Aide aux Musiques Innovatrices (AMI) (France)
Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts (USA)
Art Moves Africa (AMA)
Arterial Network (Africa)
Artistic Freedom Initiative (USA)
ArtsEverywhere (Canada)
Association of Art Museum Curators and Association of Art Museum Curators Foundation
Association Racines (Morocco)
Bamboo Curtain Studio (Taiwan)
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Cedilla & Co. (USA)
Culture Resource – Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Lebanon)
International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM)
College Art Association (USA)
Common Field- A network of artist-run and artist centered spaces and initiatives (USA)
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (USA)
Creative Time (USA)
European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA)
European Council of Artists
Freemuse- Defending artistic freedom.
Index on Censorship: Defending Free Expression Worldwide
Independent Curators International
International Arts Critics Association
IETM- International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts
The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN)
Levy Delval Gallery (Belgium)
Geneva Ethnography Museum (Switzerland)
National Coalition Against Censorship (USA)
New School for Drama Arts Integrity Initiative (USA)
Observatoire de la Liberté de Création (France)
On the Move | Cultural Mobility Information Network
PEN America (USA)
Queens Museum (USA)
Roberto Cimetta Fund
San Francisco Art Institute (USA)
Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) (USA)
Tamizdat (USA)
Vera List Center for Art and Politics (USA)