Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Graphic Design


Graphic Design

First Advisor

Bernard . Canniffe


This study investigates the role of immigrant artists and their impact on American culture: the contributions they make, the challenges they face, and the processes they take to resettle. How do they create art in their new environment and contribute to America’s rich cultural fabric? Through the interviews with selected immigrant artists and curation of a collaborative group art exhibition, the study aims to generate social engagements, open up conversations and persuade the community of Ames, Iowa, to be more inclusive and open to cultural diversity.

The study has two main components. The first is a qualitative study comprising interviews with seven immigrant artists. The eligible participants were artists who migrated and have lived in the United States for, at least, five years. This part of the study focused on the immigrant artists’ own experiences and perceptions about art and identity exploration to help understand their unique cultural identity.

The second component of the study involved a curation of an exhibition that took place in Design on Main Gallery, Ames, Iowa. The exhibition showcased works of 14 different artists. These artists were recruited separately from the first component of the study. The exhibition is a result of the first component, and it presented the works by artists living in the United States who share the migration experience, using the experience to inform their creative processes.

The exhibition theme was determined based on the analysis of the interviews. The artworks exhibited explored various themes relating to their self-identity, such as adaptation, cultural identity, migration, sense of belonging, and other ideas that are connecting to personal experiences and feelings such as disaster, fear, memory, time, movement, and fantasy. The exhibition did not have a single theme in an attempt to better understand the individuality and the multiplicity of the participants’ cultural identities.

The exhibition opened to the community of Ames, Iowa, for a period of three weeks from November to December 2019. A number of community members experienced the exhibition. The experience allowed the community members to be exposed to a multiplicity of experiences created by immigrant artists.

Through the approach of social design, and the use of the design process to facilitate social change, this project aimed to promote cultural diversity. The study outcome emphasized the importance of the artist’s and designer’s role and responsibility in engaging society to make a positive impact on the community. Moreover, the result of the study provided the springboard for further exploration of immigrant artists’ contributions to the diverse culture of America.

Copyright Owner

Sang Eun Lee



File Format


File Size

108 pages