AUSTIN, TEXAS — The holiday season brings with it unexpected surprises in the form of gifts and goodwill. One such treat has been unveiled at the city airport, where a newly unveiled mural dramatically invokes the hopes and dreams inherent to the immigrant experience in Austin.

Titled “A Place To Call Home,” the expansive public artwork (12′ by 6′) by Rakhee Jain Desai depicts the local diaspora that gives Austin its diversity and cultural richness. On a painted upcycled cloth canvas covered in a protective layer of clear resin, the art was inspired after Desai hosted 20 vision workshops at her Austin art studio, where immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers helped give visually tangible shape to their visions of their newfound home, she told airport officials.

To that end, migrants created their own illustrations depicting memories of their homelands, as well as artistically expressing personal feelings related to their new home here in the Texas capital city. To accomplish their vision quests, each participant worked on pieces of used cotton sheets brought in from numerous refugee centers and neighborhoods across Austin, airport officials explained. The cloth parcels were then dyed using the Batlik method, a centuries-old wax-resistant technique.

Desai said her mission in creating the piece was to portray a collective vision of the ideal home for which all people yearn — one not defined by birthplace but where a person envisions his or her future while knowing this replanting of roots can be achieved, despite obstacles along the way.

“A Place to Call Home” is located outside of airport security near the Baggage Claim 1 area for all travelers and non-travelers interested in seeing the mural. The project was made possible by TEMPO, the Austin Art in Public Places temporary public art program that aims to enrich and engender civic dialogue related to public art while promoting tourism. The group has commissioned a dozen murals throughout the city to be in place for one year.

Art in Public Places is a program of the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department, for which more information can be secured via www.austintexas.gov/tempo More information about Desai’s work can be found on her website at: www.rakheejaindesai.com.

Watch the brief video below to see part of the process involved in creating this powerfully resonant art piece:

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>>> Photo courtesy of Phillip Rogers via Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

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