The Springs is the focus of a new photo and storytelling project depicting the Mexican community in Sonoma. The exhibit, sponsored by Creative Sonoma, is a series of photo portraits and life stories.
“I wanted to portray who the people behind the ‘Mexican Immigrant’ label really are and learn about their culture, their journey into this country and their everyday lives,” said local photographer Niki Camerin. “The workers I know are needed and hired by local businesses that couldn’t operate without them. On top of that, there are so many Mexican family-owned businesses in town that are successful and thriving, and very little is said about them.”
A reception showcasing the exhibit, entitled “La Nuestra Gente,” will be held Sunday, Nov. 26, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Adastra Wine & Art, 5 E. Napa St. The exhibit will move to the Sonoma Community Center Dec. 7-10 for the ceramics sale weekend, then come back to Adastra through the end of the year.
Camerin collaborated with the middle school class at Crescent Montessori School to capture images and stories from residents of the Springs neighborhood. The project was underwritten by a Creative Sonoma “pop-up grant.”
Camerin said she was inspired to undertake the project by a desire to show appreciation for a community she respects and admires.
When Camerin, whose children attend Crescent Montessori, approached the head of school, Karin Niehoff, about the project, Niehoff and middle school teacher Stéphanie Beaurain were enthusiastic to collaborate.
“I have enjoyed living in the Springs for over 30 years,” said Niehoff. “On my daily drive to work on Sonoma’s east side, I have imagined a thread of connection between these two parts of the valley. When Niki told me about the project I immediately said yes!”
The mixed-age group of seven sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders assisted Camerin with photography and wrote the life stories that accompany each portrait after interviewing subjects onsite in the Springs.
“From an academic perspective, this experience was a perfect way to introduce our American history studies, giving us the opportunity to discuss and debate the subject of immigration in America, current and historical,” said Beaurain. “But perhaps the most impactful aspect of this project was how real it made our discussions on a subject which should be anything but academic. We met people, saw their faces, heard their voices and for a moment, shared their joys and sorrows.”
The reception will include the collaborators and subjects of the “La Nuestra Gente” exhibit, and is free and open to the public. Complimentary wine tasting, as well as non-alcoholic drinks and hors d’oeuvres, will be served.