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Refugees share stories, celebrate diversity through artwork

SALT LAKE CITY — Local refugees used white peace flags as a backdrop to illustrate their journeys to Utah.

The art has been displayed throughout December in an exhibit celebrating diversity at the Salt Lake City-County Building.

"When you use art as the medium to send a message, I think that that’s really a lot more personal to people because it really illustrates the story behind the person," said Yolanda Francisco-Nez, coordinator of the mayor's office of diversity and human rights.

Francisco-Nez said there are about 40 flags on display along with stories about the refugees and their photos. Most of the works of art were done by women and children, she said.

"Whenever you hear someone else's story, it really is, I think, difficult to hate someone," Francisco-Nez said. "Once you understand their story, it really does touch you in a very personal way, in a way that I think moves people to their core."

Francisco-Nez said by listening to the refugees' and immigrants' stories, she's learned more about where they came from and the struggles and challenges they overcame to be in the Beehive State.

"You certainly appreciate the value that they bring by being a part of our society and city," she said.

The artwork, done with different colored markers on the peace flags, makes the work a little more poignant, Francisco-Nez said.

"One of the values that people will take away is really that people are all … human, and everybody has a story."

The artwork will be on display through Tuesday on the first floor of the Salt Lake City-County Building. The building is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The exhibit is part of a series of monthlong events for the International Human Rights Day outreach and education effort. The Salt Lake Main Library also featured films and books on global and domestic human rights issues to further the discussion.

"Oftentimes with art exhibits, photographs, interviews, stories, that really can begin to start the conversation about human rights," Francisco-Nez said. "We see that being really an area where we can begin having more and more conversations about paying attention, that it's better for everybody to live in a society that pays attention to human rights."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com