Traveling Along the Immigrants’ Road
By Tammy La Gorce
Published: February 11, 2011

WHEN Tim Raphael, director of the Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers-Newark, compares his campus to a highway — specifically, to Queens Boulevard in New York — the connection between the two things might not be immediately obvious. It is diversity.

Queens Boulevard inspired the art exhibition “Crossing the BLVD,” which opened Thursday at the Paul Robeson Galleries at Rutgers-Newark and runs through April 6. The exhibit, which tells the stories of immigrants and refugees, kicks off the center’s three-month series of free public programs titled “The United States of Migration.”

“Queens Boulevard is the most diverse stretch of highway in the U.S., and what I’m hoping to do is use the exhibit as a way of possibly opening up a similar project on the most diverse campus in the U.S.,” said Dr. Raphael, 49, who has a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and lives in Montclair, N.J. The Rutgers-Newark campus has been accorded that designation for 14 years running by U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Raphael said.

The exhibition “Crossing the BLVD” was created by Warren Lehrer, a photographer and a professor of art at the School of Art + Design at Purchase College, and Judith Sloan, an actress and writer. They interviewed and photographed immigrants along Queens Boulevard over a three-year period for the exhibition, which has been touring the country and is part of a multidisciplinary project including a book, audio CD and performance.

“The United States of Migration” series will also include films: “Farmingville,” about tensions spawned by immigration in a suburban Long Island town, to be screened March 9 at the Dana Library on the Rutgers campus in Newark; and “Welcome to Shelbyville,” which follows the residents of a rural Tennessee town as they adjust to an influx of Somali-born refugees, to be shown on April 26 at the Newark Museum.

Other events include a March 23 solo performance at the Bradley Hall Theater in Newark by Ms. Sloan, who will channel the experiences of several of the immigrants she encountered during the making of “Crossing the BLVD,” and a March 24 performance, “Coming to America: Music by Contemporary American Immigrant Composers and Dvorak’s ‘American’ Quartet,” by the Momenta Quartet, of New York, at the Paul Robeson Galleries.

Though many universities in the United States are exploring the issue of changing demographics, “in New Jersey the change is very dramatic,” Dr. Raphael said. “We at Rutgers-Newark have a unique opportunity, because of our diverse student body, to really understand how these demographic trends are going to be affecting the country.”

For information on “The United States of Migration”: or (973) 353-3699.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 13, 2011, on page NJ8 of the New York edition.