Retracing Her Roots

Exploring and documenting immigration family history through art

Portrait of Sanchez

Exploring and documenting immigration family history through art

The journey Alex M. Sanchez’s family has taken to get to the United States has been anything but a direct path.

Her grandmother was first forced to leave Europe for Central America during World War II, fleeing persecution for being Jewish. The Nicaraguan Revolution forced the other side of her family to immigrate to Mexico, and they ultimately crossed into the United States for better opportunities.

As a journalist and a graduate student at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Sanchez is using her developing video skills to share her family’s story in a documentary.

“Our country is made up of immigrants, and we’re all from different places,” said Sanchez, a Park Fellow at the Hussman School. “The more that these types of stories are told, the more that it is normalized. The more stories that are told, the more understanding.”

The project is one of three that received the Student Arts Innovation Grant, an annual Arts Everywhere award of $1,000 for select undergraduate and graduate students, or $3,000 for a group. For Sanchez, that award means being able to obtain better equipment, fund travel to complete her interviews and host a screening once the documentary is complete.

This project is something Sanchez has contemplated doing for a long time, and with the combination of the Students Arts Innovation Grant and mentorship at the Hussman School, she’s now able to bring it to life.

Sanchez’s documentary follows the experiences of her mother and aunt and their path to the United States. With a combination of stop-motion animation, archive footage and interviews, she aims to tell the story of immigration from the perspectives of those who have experienced it.

“It’s like picking at a scab that’s calloused over for some time,” she said. “It’s really an evaluation of what their intentions were when leaving their country and their home, and asking them really hard questions about what it means to be an immigrant and if they feel like they’ve gathered all the things they wanted to gain from this country. It’s a pretty big question to be asking people.”

Read more about Sanchez’s project and Student Arts Innovation Grants…Opens in new window

Readers Also Viewed...


Film Beyond the Stars

Cosmic Rays film festival encourages students to push boundaries and brings experimental art to Chapel Hill

Alex M. Sanchez

Retracing A Family’s Roots

An Arts Everywhere Innovation Grant helped fund an immigration documentary project

Kelli Smith-Biwer in the Beat Lab. (Photo by Jess Abel)

Meet the Inaugural Arts Everywhere Graduate Fellow in Music Technology

Creating work that depends on community engagement and activism

Students dressed in costume performing an opera.

Crescendos of Creativity

“Opera doesn’t belong in any one place.”


A Community for Collaboration

Heather Lewis has built an international community for photographers.