“Migration has been a part of human history since the beginning,” said artist Ann Hirsch. “We move. We’re always on the move, and sometimes we’re on the move because we need to be; because we are danger.”

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – There is an ArtPrize installation piece in the Grand River that represents the refugee crisis.

The piece is called SOS, or Safety Orange Swimmers, and it makes a connection between the Grand River and all the rivers and seas that people have crossed in search of safety and shelter.

A+J Art and Design, a collaborative team based in Boston, are one of the recipients of the ArtPrize Featured Public Projects grants this year. Ann Hirsch and Jeremy Angier’s project will be one of two entries in the Grand River. As a way to highlight some of the stories behind the development of the dozens of projects that received grants this year, I decided to mail a small questionnaire to artists that we could then publish on the ArtPrize Blog. Ann and Jeremy responded by asking if we could have a longer conversation about their work and the shifting realities of immigration, which their work explores, as well as the political forces challenging the country — and even ArtPrize itself. I happily agreed.

For context, it’s relevant to note that we spoke on September 6, 2017, the day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would be rescinded, and in between Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Boston Centers for Youth & Families, and the Boston Art Commission today announced the successful completion of projects created by the 10 artists selected for the City of Boston’s artist-in-residence program, Boston AIR. These projects represent varying arts disciplines, from printmaking to sculpting and more, and builds on the Mayor’s commitment to implementing Boston Creates, the City’s cultural plan.

More on Ann Hirsch’s project here

SOS (Safety Orange Swimmers) was honored by  program. Public Art Network which is the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. More information.


Ann Hirsch and Jeremy Angier of A+J Art+Design are honored to have been selected to create a public art project in Boston’s oldest public square, North Square.Their concept was selected through a highly competitive open call for artists.

The team will work with the Boston Public Works Department (PWD), the Boston Art Commission, and the North End community to further develop their initial proposal. The public art project will be implemented in conjunction with an overall reconstruction project in North Square. The project will be installed in 2018.

This temporary exhibition in Boston’s Fort Point Channel called attention to today’s refugee crisis. Each figure represented nearly 1 million of the United Nations’ estimated 21.3 million refugees in the world today, as we previously reported.

The “scale of refugees to figures floating in the water is heartbreaking,” Madhumita Narayan wrote. “The realistic sculptures really made it feel like a more tangible cause, rather than just a statistic.”


“Onlookers at Fort Point stop to admire and make sense of the eye-catching figures. The uniform shapes are painted “safety orange” for good reason. From an artistic standpoint, it was important for the artists to choose a bright color they knew would make a big impression on observers.

On a deeper level, the color “safety orange” is a color that signifies the idea of hazards, danger and safety. Life vests and safety rafts are usually this brash, orange color which set them apart from their surroundings. The alarming orange color evokes a sense of urgency common to the journey of those seeking asylum.”