There are more than 65 million people on the move worldwide, a mass of humanity comprising refugees, asylum seekers and the “internally displaced.” The growing numbers, and the stories they represent, are hard for the brain to process. A new two-site art exhibition attempts to make the connection another way — through the heart.

“I hope people will come and tell their friends to come and see the artwork … We want people to feel this issue,” said Kathreen “Kit” Harrison who, with Susan Beebe, organized “People on the Move: A Human Crisis.”

The month-long show opened Feb. 2 at both the Jonathan Frost Gallery in downtown Rockland, which held an opening night reception; and the Picker Room of Camden Public Library. On Sunday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m., several of the more than two dozen artists will speak about their work at the library. And Friday, Feb. 16, there will be a mid-show reception from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the library.

Harrison credits Beebe with the original idea, but both had been musing about some kind of artistic response to the 2016 presidential campaign and result when they ran into each other at Rockland’s Rock City Café last year.

“I was thinking, what can I do, as an artist? I had this nebulous idea that maybe we could do a show on refugees,” said Beebe a few days before “People on the Move” opened.

“Susan said, 'Remember those shows "Portraits of Guantanamo" and "Prisoners of Conscience?" So we just kind of blithely said, let’s do it,” said Harrison, who, among other affiliations, is a board member of Ladder to the Moon Network, a nonprofit in Portland that helps immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Those 10-to-12-years-ago shows involved a collaboration between artist couple Beebe and Frost; and Amnesty International, for which Harrison was at the time a local group co-leader. Artists created work around postage-size pictures of prisoners; the pictures were small, but the artworks were not, and neither was the impression they left.

“So I had the same idea again, and Kit did too,” Beebe said.

About six months ago, Harrison arranged with Camden Public Library’s Cayla Miller to have the show this winter at the Picker Room. But it soon became apparent that the artistic response was bigger than that space. Frost offered to have some of the show in his framing shop gallery. “People on the Move,” however, has taken over all his walls for the month.

The artists come from near and far. While all are Maine-based, some have come here via the very route the show documents. “People” organizers met Portland artists Titi de Baccarat, a resettled refugee, and Orson Horchler, born in the United States to immigrant parents and raised in France, when they went to see Waterfall Arts’ “Arrival” show in Belfast. Several young artists — Mwandja, Salima and Veronica — from the Kaluta family, now split between Thomaston and Portland, have work in the show. These works are self-portraits, done while working with artist Antonia Munroe. And Frost and Beebe painted the children’s parents, Jordan and Safi.

“It was a way for me to meet this family and connect with them, they’re right in our community. I’ve worked with four of the children, because I do art programs in the schools,” Beebe said.

Harrison also has been working with the family, which was brought to the Midcoast by Catholic Charities Maine. She is a world language teacher and cofounder of Camden’s Acadia Center for English Immersion; Jordan, head of one branch of the 15-member group, speaks French fluently. He, his wife, their six children and one of his younger sisters, Veronica, share a house in Thomaston.

“Veronica’s going to open the talk, I hope from her personal experience — not representing the family, just her. She’s learned English really well,” Harrison said.

More perspective is offered by information panels that offer visitors facts about the global crisis and the situation in Maine. The New Mainers, as they have been dubbed, are not here because they decided they wanted to live in the Pine Tree State. They’re here because they had to get out of their home countries, said Harrison.

The brief overview of the Kalutas’ background is specifically horrifying and yet typical of what drives many people to leave their homelands. The family is Congolese, and yet none of Jordan and Safi’s children has ever been in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Twenty years ago, when war broke out across the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, the Catholic family was targeted. When their priest, a white missionary, left the village, he “handed the keys” to Jordan’s grandfather, a lay pastor. Not long after, members of the family were brutalized and the grandfather was murdered in front of Jordan, a teen at the time, and his siblings.

“So the son and his mother led the family out of the Congo in the night, on foot, to the refugee camp in Tanzania,” Harrison said. “That’s the kind of reason people come here.”

The Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania is one of the world’s largest. The family was there for 20 years before being able to come to America. Since arriving in 2016, they have been “working like crazy” in an eldercare facility, said Harrison of Jordan and Safi.

“He works the night shift, she works the day shift. Three of their children are under the age of 3; well, one’s 3 and then there’s 2-year-old twins. So it’s really hard,” Harrison said. “Basically, Jordan sleeps very little … he has to try to catch some sleep with the little kids tootling around in the house. And that’s his life: work, paying bills, trying to keep his family healthy and well.”

While she said there are “almost nothing” in the way of social services for the twins on the Midcoast, Harrison praised the work of Head Start for the older ones; three have entered the Thomaston schools successfully.

“They’re very happy with the schools, and that’s partly why they’re here,” Harrison said. “The kids are doing really well; they’re getting services, they’re learning English.”

They’ve also experienced racism, Harrison said. She is a member of the New Americans Welcome committee, which is providing refreshments for the library events. The committee meets every other Thursday at 5 p.m. at Thomaston’s Episcopal Church of St. John Baptist. Anyone interested in joining, or in getting on the mailing list, is encouraged to send email to

I’m really just hoping that people will look at others with new eyes,” said Harrison of the “People on the Move” show.

Wendy Newbold Patterson is the other artist who will speak on the 11th. The longtime Gray resident has her own experience of being displaced; while art students in Canada in 1974, she and her husband, stone sculptor Roy Patterson, were deported because they had failed to meet a registration deadline.

“We had 24 hours to get out. It is a singular experience,” she said, adding that they were able to return 11 months later.

In recent years, she has come to know some of the New Mainers as friends, neighbors and fellow churchgoers. Their tales of survival have been both harrowing and inspiring.

“One of the things I identify in my friends who survive as ‘structures of resilience,’ which isn’t my term, is this warp and weft  — cultural garments they bring with them — their histories, stories, food, traditions — and the need to adapt to the reality on the ground, for their children,” she said. “Some of the stories people have shared are phenomenally courageous.”

Patterson’s art has been focused on the refugee experience for some years. When her first granddaughter was born, Patterson found herself painting mothers and children. Shortly thereafter, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake, followed soon by war in Syria and the beginning of the ongoing migrations.

“I really connected with the idea that these were mostly women and children who were just uprooted from their existence,” she said. “How do they survive that, what were the things that they take with them that helped them to survive?”

As a mother and new grandmother, Patterson knew the first thing in hand was the child, “and then you are motivated to adapt and to survive. So I started working with those images.”

When she first started showing this work, the crisis seemed far away. Now it is at hand, thanks to the testimony and example of the New Mainers. On a broader scale, it is at every doorstep.

“In a way, we’re all dealing with the same problem: what does it take to survive? Environmental, political, all those things are going to affect all of us,” she said. “We’re all going to have to grab our children and figure out what to teach them, how to help them survive what’s coming.”

On a here-and-now note, Pattison said the New Mainer children are often the path for their parents’ acclimating, literally, to life in Maine.

“I heard someone say to an immigrant family, get your children those little saucer sleds and go sledding with them! You’ll have a whole lot of fun,” she said.

Patterson came to the group show via activist artist Natasha Mayers, after the call for artists was posted on the Union of Maine Visual Artists’ Facebook page. Frost also worked the downtown Rockland art gallery network, getting recommendations and tracking down artists whose work seemed a good fit. Some of them are donating portions of their proceeds to organizations that deal with the show’s theme.

“Clarity is donating half to Amnesty International,” Frost said of the local artist team of Robert and Su.Sane Hake.

But “People on the Move” is less about raising funds than it is about raising awareness and compassion — and not just in the viewers.

“It gives you encouragement to feel something about this and express it,” Beebe said. “I hope we start a conversation, and people will look and think and talk and act.”

Patterson agreed, saying, “That’s what my work is about. Building compassion and seeing that ‘the other’ is us.”

“People on the Move: A Human Crisis” runs through Feb. 28 at both locations. The Feb. 16 reception coincides with the opening of the annual Camden Conference; Harrison said she hopes people arriving in town for the annual foreign affairs conference will “put their stuff in their hotels and pop on down to the library!”