New American Economy and Center for Houston’s Future host the Houston New American Festival

Media are invited to attend an art exhibition and live painting performance at the Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery at MATCH – Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston on Saturday, October 12. This event marks the Houston, Texas installment of New American Economy’s New American Festival, a first-of-its-kind celebration of immigrant contributions to American art, food, film, comedy, music, dance, and more. The Festival aims to transform the conversation around immigration by promoting cultural influencers’ work to convey the shared American experience. The New American Festival first launched in mid-September with a two-day event featuring film screenings, art, comedy, cooking  demonstrations, musical performances, and more. Along with Houston, festivals are happening in Boston (October 1), Oakland (October 5), Kansas City, MO (October 16), Nashville (October 17), and Detroit (October 20). 

Immigrant and refugee artists across mediums will come together at the Houston New American Festival to share their work and personal stories. Featured artists include Jesús Sanchez, whose technicolor murals pay homage to Houston’s diverse immigrant cultures and his hometown of Mexico City, and Sanya Wafeq, who creates black charcoal and pencil drawings with subtle watercolor accents. Sanya is an asylee who fled from persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan for her women’s rights work. Nigerian-born artist Lanre Buraimoh, celebrated for his use of motifs and beadwork techniques drawn from the Yoruba people of West Africa, will also present his paintings. Local restaurant Poitín will serve small dishes inspired by owner Ian Tucker and the artists’ birth countries of Ireland, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Mexico. Award-winning documentary filmmakers Rational Middle will show a short film, “The Immigrant’s Promise,” that explores the role immigration plays in shaping America’s history, identity, and economy. The highlight of the evening will be a fully immersive live painting performance by Geraldina Interiano Wise, a contemporary Latina artist whose avant-garde work explores themes of coexistence and connectivity. Her performance, a collaboration with Dr. Jose Contreras-Vidal, Director of the Non-Invasive Brain-Machine Interface Lab at the University of Houston, delves into the new field of Neuroaesthetics. The audience will witness the making of a new scientific model as the performance is a data mining event that incorporates cutting-edge technology in a closed loop of the artist’s brain. Geraldina will also use working tools and house paint as an ode to the working Salvadorans in our country. See below for more information on participating artists. 

This event is hosted by New American Economy, a national bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization, in partnership with local Houston-based nonprofit Center for Houston’s Future. Members of the press should contact Sona Rai at for a press pass. Media previews with Geraldina Interiano Wise and Dr. Jose Contrarias-Vidal are also available upon request.


Featured artists:

  • Geraldina Interiano Wise: Geraldina paints from Houston, Texas “…about the vast intellectual inheritance left by the Maya in the lands from which she immigrated.” She will do a live painting neuroaesthetics performance while connected to state-of-the-art mobile brain-body imaging technology. The real-time data from her brain waves will simultaneously generate an animated digital composition that will inform Geraldina as she paints, which constitutes her NAHUAL, or mirror spirit in the Mayan tradition. A fully immersive experience for the audience, Geraldina will paint to her sonnified brain waves while using house paints and tools her fellow Salvadorans typically use in their work here in the U.S. like rakes and lawn care equipment. 
  • Sanya Wafeq: Sanya is an artist, women’s rights campaigner, and refugee from Afghanistan. Disturbed by the erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, Sanya and her sister started a clothing line that employed female tailors. When images of her star-studded fashion show leaked on to social media, Sanya and her family began receiving threats from the Taliban, forcing her to seek asylum in America. Sania is a 2019 Houston Artadia Fellow. She creates portraits in order to share the emotions and feelings of Afghan people to help create more awareness about the country. 
  • Jesús Sanchez: Originally from Mexico City, Jesús’ murals seek to depict immigrant and refugee faces and cultures as they are rarely represented in mainstream art. He worked on the famous “Gulfton Story Trail,” a series of twelve murals that celebrate this Houston neighborhood’s legacy as an entryway for immigrants. Jesús’ mural, “A Celebration of Diversity,” portrays African, Latino, and Middle Eastern children with a soaring eagle inspired by his hometown. 
  • Lanre Buraimoh: Born in Nigeria and the child of two celebrated contemporary artists, Lanre’s paintings combine simple colors with unique techniques and symbols inspired by Yoruba culture and society. His “bead paintings” were exhibited internationally and won many awards and honors. Lanre is a 2019 Houston Artadia Fellow. 

Featured Master of Ceremonies: Terence O’Neill, the Director of the Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities for the City of Houston 


Saturday, October 12 from 7:30 PM to 9:45 PM


The Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery at MATCH – Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston, 3400 Main St., Houston TX 77002


This event shines a spotlight on Houston’s diverse immigrant community and its role in Houston’s vibrant arts and culture scene. It is part of the inaugural New American Festival tour, a groundbreaking celebration of immigrant cultural contributions in cities across the nation, including Anchorage, Boston, Detroit, Kansas City, Nashville, Houston, and Oakland. 

“Immigration has played a crucial role in driving the Houston region’s economic growth and will determine our economic future,” Center for Houston’s Future President and CEO Brett Perlman said. “The New American Festival is a chance to celebrate immigrants’ ongoing contribution to Houston’s rich culture.” 

“Immigrants in Houston and in other red states are contributing in so many ways to American culture,” said New American Economy’s Katherine Steinberg, who is curating the national New American Festival. “This event is a cultural catalyst–by engaging with and celebrating the immigrant experience through art, we hope to change how community members across the political spectrum think about this issue.” 

About the Center for Houston’s Future:

Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) works to address matters of the highest importance to the long-term future of the greater Houston region, by engaging diverse leaders, providing impactful research, and defining actionable strategies. It brings business and community together to innovate for the future of the greater Houston region. CHF is an organization devoted exclusively to thinking and acting strategically for the long-term future of the Houston nine-county region.

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more.

Media Contact: Sona Rai,, (646) 324-8284