Driving to Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, I couldn’t help but notice the pockets of newly constructed neighborhoods I passed through. As I pulled up to the fourth annual “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” benefit art show and music experience, it made me wonder how many of the thousands of refugees that have relocated from across the world to this city are able to afford to live in these cookie cutter homes.
The answer to that is Project Worthmore. Since 2009, Project Worthmore has been helping refugees find affordable housing and resettle in the suburbs of Denver. The nonprofit highlights a foodshare program, English language classes, a dental clinic and community navigators that welcome refugees to become self-sufficient with their families.
At the “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” event recently, the Stanley Marketplace gallery debuted a collection of original mixed media works, paintings, and photographs by over 35 artists, many of whom are Colorado-based. Inspired by this year’s theme, which was “Finding Refuge,” proceeds from the event and artwork sold went to support Project Worthmore.
In addition to the art, there were several musical performances. Singer/songwriter Joe Sampson played a sweet acoustic set, and Tom Hagerman of the Denver-based rock band DeVotchKa gave a knockout performance with the Grande Orquesta Navarre, a group made up of bassist Sue Cahill, bandoneon player Hector Del Curto of the Colorado Symphony, and pianist Sara Parkinson. These original compositions were a series of intimate, string-heavy tango serenades that appeared to captivate attendees.
“It’s funny, I read all these books on climate change and how that’s going to lead to these refugee crises in the near future, and it’s already happening,” said Tom Hagerman in an interview leading up to the event about his choice to perform for the “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” event.
Added event emcee Jamie Laurie of Flobots: “I think it’s almost this weird thing our brain does where if someone doesn’t speak our language that well, we can’t help but think of them as a less complex human being, but that’s only because language [is so] complex. If we were speaking their language, we would come off as not very complex either.”
The “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” event brought awareness to the local community on the status of many Denver-area refugees. It made me think about myself in their position as people who have most likely fled a world of violence for another chance. I encourage you to imagine yourself in that position too. And to check out Project Worthmore for yourself. It’s one way to eliminate stigmas and provide a little relief for the many refugees facing hardships in our local communities, and that is something big.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.