The Faces You Don't See

A message from the photographer, Lori Compas

Sadly, the women who inspired this exhibition could not be featured in it. My friends B. and N. are sisters who moved to the United States from the Mexican state of Oaxaca nearly twenty years ago. They were tired of the lack of reliable drinking water in their homes, disillusioned by corrupt politicians, and frustrated by an economic system in which there seemed to be no honest way to get ahead. They saw America’s promise and they wanted it for themselves, and they wanted it so badly that they left their homes, crossed the border, and made their way north to Wisconsin. 

Like the other Fort Atkinson residents you’ve seen today, they have built good lives here. They’re beloved wives and mothers and friends. They’re long-term employees of area businesses. They have homes and Individual Tax Identification Numbers and they pay taxes. 

This space honors them and their commitment to creating a better future for their families. 

I also hope it inspires “established” residents to reach out to someone who might be new in town, to ask them to sit together at a ballgame or invite them to movie night. 

I know from my own experience that a small act of kindness can go a long way. Our family lived in Australia for a couple of years, and for a while I struggled to make friends and feel comfortable in a different culture. One morning at school drop-off, the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates slipped me a note inviting me out to tea. I held onto that note like a lifeline and it sparked a friendship that endures to this day. 

While this exhibit reveals our connections to the past, it also brings our present time into clear focus. There’s never been a moment quite like this, and we’re making history right now through the way we see and respond to our neighbors. 

Thanks for being here. 

Lori Compas