A perfect example of how art intervenes playfully and politically, the Migration is Beautiful butterfly proposes a new way to think about migration, rooted in movement, transformation, and captivating grace. From art prints to street art, clothing, and interactive experiences, this viral imagery reaches audiences on emotional and visceral levels, replacing images of fear with visions of shared humanity.
Migration is Beautiful began at Opportunity Agenda’s Creative Change retreat in August 2012, where CultureStrike’s Executive Director Favianna Rodriguez led an interactive design session with artists and activists. The butterfly image and tagline quickly emerged as an approachable way to reimagine borders as permeable rather than militarized, reinvigorating a metaphor that many migrants have looked to for generations. CultureStrike quickly started commissioning artworks incorporating the butterfly and made them available for reuse and remixing.
Just one month later, the butterfly began appearing on costumes, buses, banners, and murals in border towns and cities all across the country. Since then, the Migration is Beautiful butterfly image has appeared at mass demonstrations across the country, from Los Angeles to Tucson, Charlotte, and Washington, DC. In 2013, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement invited us to collaborate with 180 organizations—more than we had ever worked with—for the National Day of Dignity and Respect.
That same year, CultureStrike, in partnership with The Culture Group and Revolutions Per Minute, launched MigrationisBeautiful.com featuring an artist’s statement on immigration reform signed by more than 100 high profile actors, writers, musicians, visual artists, and other creatives. Our collaboration helps disseminate the butterfly icon and calls upon President Obama and members of Congress to pass humane immigration reform.
Of course, the biggest strength of the initiative is that it can be replicated and reproduced by anyone, from experienced artists to children. Leveraging the power of technology alongside art, our dedicated Migration Is Beautiful website offers an interactive platform where supporters can share images across social media, purchase T-shirts and action kits, and download coloring books and templates to design your own wings. And we’ve had hundreds of responses! In Philadelphia, mothers and children pasted hearts and butterflies with "Migration is Beautiful" on the façade of Philadelphia’s office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Kansas, a mural by local students was defaced by racial slurs—then repainted in a show of community resilience.
In a short time, the Migration is Beautiful project has received considerable attention as a milestone in the migrant rights movement, loud enough to be heard through the din of pundits and politicians. Our projects were featured in a documentary by celebrity rapper Pharrell Williams, sparking tens of thousands of views and hundreds of emails from youth we otherwise might not have connected with. We’ve also reached millions of people on Facebook and Twitter, and our impact continues to grow.
Most importantly, when these people think about immigration, they're able to conjure up images beyond patrols and fences, and consider the simple but profound beauty of the butterflies.
Spread Your Wings!
Visit our special Migration is Beautiful website to order t-shirts or learn how to make your own butterflies!
Spread the butterflies! Visit our special Migration is Beautiful website to order t-shirts or learn how to make your own wings!
Check out the three-part short documentary series on Migration is Beautiful from Pharrell Williams’s i am OTHER project:
In The News
- CNN: “Art that calls the fiscal cliff’s bluff” by Artstrike and Van Jones