Barrier Free - A Socially Engaged Art Installation

"Love recognizes no BARRIERS. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." - Maya Angelou

Barrier Free is a socially engaged art installation by artist Yancy Villa-Calvo to advocate for the work of Latino Memphis, about the impact of barriers. Throughout history, humans have built walls to protect, define and divide. Some walls are physical, others are intangible barriers. Regardless of their composition, barriers keep people from being able to reach their goals or desired destination.

Building on the current and controversial idea of the proposed wall along the US - Mexico border, the artist is creating an installation that will create awareness and encourage the viewers to pause, reflect and act.

The installation attempts to be inclusive and open to interpretation. Symbols will make reference to barriers around nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation and identity, gender and socioeconomic aspects. This project is less about the actual wall and more about the systematic attempts to divide individuals, families and communities.

Barrier Free Installation includes three main elements.  

  1. A physical barrier with portraits of families and individuals. Immigrants, refugees, Jews, LGBT individuals, Muslims, African Americans, Caucasians, Asians and others will represent our city’s diverse tapestry. Everyone is an essential part of our community, and separating us, physically, emotionally or in any other form, makes our community incomplete.

  2. Freestanding life-size mirror & cut-out silhouettes of families surrounding the wall. The silhouettes will portray different scenarios: a father carrying a small child, a caregiver pushing a wheelchair, to name a couple. Some of the images will be cut out leaving an empty space representing a missing person, underscoring the consequences of barriers. Viewers will be a able see their own reflection when standing in front of the silhouettes, provoking empathy.  

  3. An actual fence in which people can express a wish, a frustration, a solution, a thought, or prayer for, in honor or in memory of someone. They will be able to write it down on a tag and tie it to the fence. Also the viewers can make a donation to organizations who are already working on this social endeavor. This will allow people to participate and engage in social change in a more permanent way.

Using immigration as a foundation, this installation fosters empathy among participants who have the power to change current laws for more inclusive policies that respond to human suffering, family bonding, and individual liberties. When viewers can, for a moment, see themselves in place of these families and understand how it might feel for a family member to be removed, when viewers can see that all members of the society will suffer the consequences of divisive policies, it may spark a sense of civic action and encourage viewers to become a voice for those who don't have one.

The full installation is approximately 8 feet tall by 30 feet long (with incremental growth) and will be available for one or multiple day exhibitions throughout the city. A pop-up version using a portion of the installation will also be available. Both intent to spark conversation, thought and to prompt viewers to take pictures and to share on social media.
Underwriting and Fundraising: The vulnerability of the Latino community has escalated to a level that has not been seen in recent history. Latino Memphis and its partners stand ready to defend, empower and advocate for families and individuals by providing: legal representation, know your rights trainings, “family preparedness plan” sessions, trainings for service providers, policy recommendations, and other strategies that will help build welcoming communities. Financial support raised through this art project will help underwrite its production and will be doubled by a grant from a local donor.  

Click here to for sponsorship level in the project or email

Click here to DONATE to Latino Memphis.


Free Standing Silhouettes



Participatory Fence