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Artist Ruben Ubiera Uses QR Codes In Mural To Tell Oral Tales Of Immigrants

Ruben Ubiera is one busy guy. Ask him what he's up to and prepare to hear an earful. The Broward County resident recently wrapped up the Lexicon show at Young at Art Museum in Davie, where he has also led a workshop for children artists. And his 10-by-4-foot self portrait puppet, representing Ubiera's artistic life, will remain in the museum's permanent collection.

In addition, Ubiera recently unveiled his latest mural in Wynwood, a massive portrayal of eight immigrants' faces. The piece offers viewers more than a gazing experience. The mural contains a QR code so people can scan it with a smartphone and hear the recorded stories of each person depicted in the piece.  These tales share raw, personal details recounting how immigration laws affected their lives. Recordings include the story of one family forced into separation, and another person's risk of deportation. 

Granted, immigration reform is a deeply complex -- and can be a heartbreaking issue -- yet Ubiera's mural points to positive social changes with his use of vivid colors. To expound on the mural's interactive experience and creating a collective message that viewers can participate in, Ubiera named it #IamHere with a hashtag making it easy to share via social media.

The #IamHere immigration mural

Born in the Dominican Republic, immigration reform is a heartfelt matter for the 36-year-old artist.

"It's horrible. I am an immigrant and it is important to keep in mind that America is essentially a land founded by foreign settlers for the settlers for the pursuit of happiness and freedom. A lot of people need to realize this country was colonized in the 19th century, and it's still shaping," he says. "There are a lot of changes to be made."

Ubiera doesn't shy away from including social commentary in his body of work, a style he refers to as post-graffism, a melange of graphic design, comic book influences, neoclassism and typography. His urban-inspired pieces are often made of reclaimed materials. Gorillas make regular appearances in his work, which, for Ubiera, encompass what urban artists create. "The gorilla is the art movement seen in the streets and is staring at us right in the face. Much like the gorilla, it is strong and bold, raw. That's what's happening with a lot of urban artists," he says.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) commissioned Ubiera to paint the #IamHere immigration mural after seeing his art for public spaces project The Community in Pembroke Pines. The 2,000-pound brick structure erected a few years ago outside Studio 18consists of four painted faces representing people of varying backgrounds.

"The Community highlights differences in races, ages and cultures in the world, in the United States. But the whole point behind it is to show people who make the community," he explains. "Brick by brick with a strong foundation, you can build a stronger community. The realization is that different people brought together is powerful."

And the projects message will carry on as the city of Pembroke Pines has plans to erect nearly 30 or so more of Ubiera's work in public spaces over the next few years.

Having enjoyed a prolific artisitic career, Ubiera credits his move to the United States: "I wouldn't be where I am today if I were still in my home country."

Visit #IamHere immigration mural at 2337 N.W. Fifth Ave., in Wynwood Miami. To see more of Ruben Ubiera's work visit www.urbanpopsoul.com.

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