On Friday, January 27th, 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 United States for 90 days. It also suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
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.
Representatives of several of the participating organizations issued additional statements on the immigration ban and its impact on writers and artists:
Helge Lunde, Executive Director of ICORN, said, “Freedom of movement is a fundamental right. Curtailing this puts vulnerable people, people at risk and those who speak out against dictators and aggressors, at an even greater risk.”
Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs at the U.S. National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), said, “In a troubled and divided world, we need more understanding, not greater divisions. It is the voices of artists that help us understand, empathize, and see the common humanity underlying the separations of political and religious differences. Silencing these voices is not likely to make us any safer.”
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America, said, “The immigration ban is interfering with the ability of artists and creators to pursue their work and exercise their right to free expression. In keeping with its mission to defend open expression and foster the free flow of ideas between cultures and across borders, PEN America vows to fight on behalf of the artists affected by this Executive Order.”
Diana Ramarohetra, Project Manager of Arterial Network, said, "A limit on mobility and limits on freedom of expression has the reverse effect – to spur hate and ignorance. Artists from Somalia and Sudan play a crucial role in spreading the message to their peers about human rights, often putting themselves at great risk in countries affected by ongoing conflict. Denying them safety is to fail them in our obligation to protect and defend their rights."
Ole Reitov, Executive Director of Freemuse, said, “This is a de-facto cultural boycott, not only preventing great artists from performing, but even negatively affecting the U.S. cultural economy and its citizens rights to access important diversity of artistic expressions.”
Shawn Van Sluys, Director of Musagetes and ArtsEverywhere, said, “Musagetes/ArtsEverywhere stands in solidarity with all who protect artist rights and the freedom of mobility. It is time for bold collective actions to defend free and open inquiry around the world.”
Joint Statement Regarding the Impact of the U.S. Immigration Ban on Artistic Freedom
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.
African Arts Institute (South Africa)
Aide aux Musiques Innovatrices (AMI) (France)
Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts (USA)
Artistic Freedom Initiative (USA)
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)
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
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)
Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New School (USA)
A growing number of organizations continue to sign the statement.
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of 56 national non-profit organizations dedicated to defending freedom of thought, inquiry and expression.
Contact: Jas Chana, NCAC Communications Director
firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-807-6222 ext.107