School of Art

Two University of Arizona School of Art faculty, Assistant Professor Nicole Antebi and Professor David Taylor, are members of collaborative teams that have been awarded major funding in support of projects which aim to facilitate vulnerable border populations in telling their own stories.

Digital Borderlands is a three-year grant project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and facilitated through the University of Arizona Libraries. The goal is to produce and disseminate new, open-access humanities scholarship about the U.S.-Mexico borderlands by integrating library services into a collaborative research process that emphasizes data-intensive, digital storytelling.

While the projects are vastly different, they both are intending to share the stories of people whose voices are often suppressed or erased. Leveraging the University’s resources and working in collaboration with advocacy groups and community organizers, these multidisciplinary projects will help to amplify the voices of the people at the center of complex borderlands issues.

Dig Deeper | Learn more about these collaborations on the School of Art website.

Animated style frame for “The Rarámuri Dressmakers of Chihuahua City” by Nicole Antebi.


Antebi of the Illustration + Design program is the Principal Investigator for “The Rarámuri Dressmakers of Chihuahua City,” an animated documentary produced in collaboration with Victoria Blanco, a nonfiction writer from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and Irene Baqué, a documentary filmmaker based in London. The team will work with direction from Amalia Holguin, who will guide the film. Holguin is a Rarámuri dressmaker, community leader, and mother who was raised in Oasis, a government-funded Indigenous compound situated within the Colonia Martín López neighborhood.

“My collaborators and I are thrilled to receive this generous Mellon Foundation grant in partnership with the Digital Borderlands team at the University of Arizona Library,” said Antebi. “Our objective is to create a documentary that narrates the ways in which Rarámuri women of Chihuahua uphold their sharing economy and preserve their people’s knowledge and identity through dressmaking.”

Oasis is home to 500 Rarámuris who fled the drought and drug growers in their ancestral homeland, the Sierra Madre mountains. Rarámuri women create and redistribute traditional floor-length dresses as a way to discourage their people’s assimilation into mainstream Mexican society.

David Taylor detention center image
La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, which has an ICE detainee population of up to 3,060. Image courtesy of David Taylor.


Taylor of the Photography, Video and Imaging program, is collaborating on a project called, “DETAINED: Voices from the Migrant Incarceration System,” led by Principal Investigator Anita Huizar-Hernández, associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. 

The group will document the experiences of former asylum seekers and undocumented migrants who were incarcerated by immigration authorities in Arizona. The multilingual written, visual and audio materials created and collected will create an archive that functions as a counter-memorial and tangible record of testimonials. 

Taylor has capture images taken via drones of 28 privately operated ICE detention center on the border throughout Arizona and the Southwest.

Students and faculty will document experiences of former detainees through a combination of multilingual written, visual, and audio forms. The public-facing archive will be located in Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries. The project is designed to extend the meaning and function of archives while serving as an artistic counter-memorial to the expansive landscape of immigrant incarceration — which is present in nearly every region of the United States.

The multidisciplinary working group, includes Taylor, Huizar-Hernández, and staff from the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), also known as The Florence Project

  • Susan Briante, Creative Writing professor in the Department of English
  • Francisco Cantú, a writer, translator and Wildcat alumnus 
  • Daniel Hernandez, FIRRP Donor Communications Coordinator
  • Greer Millard, FIRRP Communications Manager
  • Three graduate assistants

>> Libraries announce Mellon Grant recipients to launch ‘Digital Borderlands’ storytelling program (05.21.21)

>> Mellon Foundation grant will support research and storytelling on the U.S.-Mexico border (05.21.20)