Asylum for the Arts and Center for Refugee Poetics: A Collaborative Festival

Mai-Linh Hong
Literatures, Languages and Cultures
UC Merced

Ma Vang
History & Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
UC Merced

This free, two-day public arts festival showcases literature, film, art, and music by artists from refugee backgrounds to be held in fall 2024 in Merced, California. A collaboration between the UC Merced-based Asylum for the Arts initiative and the Center for Refugee Poetics, the festival engages local artists and organizations while focusing on refugee Latinx and Southeast Asian communities in California’s Central Valley. Asylum for the Arts is a public humanities initiative at UC Merced whose purpose is to nurture, study, and teach refugee and immigrant literature and arts in California’s Central Valley, a region with a richly diverse, underrecognized literary history in which migration, displacement, and resettlement feature prominently. Built around the concept of asylum, or a state of protection, Asylum for the Arts supports refugee and immigrant writers, artists, and scholars whose needs may not be met by mainstream creative and academic infrastructures. The Center for Refugee Poetics (CfRP) is a mobile literary arts and education project co-founded by author Ocean Vuong and curator Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. CfRP features workshops, performances, mentorship and community building, curricular development, and publications to preserve refugee memory, deepen understanding of refugee histories, and forge stronger connections across refugee diasporas. CfRP operates through pop-up events held in various cities, the latest of which will be this collaborative 2024 event in Merced.

Photo credit: Yehuda Sharim, Letters2Maybe.