New American Economy and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition launch the Nashville New American Festival

Media are invited to attend an art show at Fort Houston at 2020 Lindell Ave on Thursday, October 17. This event marks the Nashville 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 seeks 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 in New York City with a two-day event featuring film screenings, art, comedy, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and more. Along with Nashville, festivals are happening in Boston (October 1), Oakland (October 5), Houston (October 12), Kansas City, MO (October 16), and Detroit (October 20).

Local artist, Andrés Bustamante, of Persona Contemporary, will curate an art show featuring immigrant and non-immigrant artists, including Jodi Hays, Jimmy Abegg, Beizar Arandini, Sarah Hart Landolt, and Ashley Trabue. Andrés is a Colombian-born, multi-disciplinary artist whose works explore human emotions and existence through abstraction. Immigrant chefs and caterers will offer a variety of cuisines representing ethnicities and nationalities from around the world, including Kurdish, Singaporean, Persian, Haitian, and Colombian food. Music and spoken word performances will take place throughout the evening, highlighting Nashville’s diversity in talent. African drumming and dance group NYAMA will give an interactive performance, and Thuy Rocco, a former refugee from Vietnam, will read an excerpt from her memoir The Last Surviving Child, a finalist for the Independent Author Network Book of the Year. Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and New American Economy will also speak briefly about ways Nashvillians can support its immigrant and refugee communities. All featured artwork will be available for purchase, and proceeds will be donated to TIRRC. See below for more information on participating artists. 

This event is hosted by New American Economy, a national bipartisan immigration research and advocacy group, in partnership with Nashville-based TIRRC. Members of the press can contact Sona Rai at for a press pass.


Featured artists: 

  • Andrés Bustamante: Andrés is a multi-disciplinary artist born in Cali, Colombia and based in Nashville, Tennessee. His creative process is driven by his curiosity and never-ending exploration of the emotional state of this human experience. His works, abstractions in various mediums, are a reflection of his spiritual journey in a physical body. Passionate about creativity and community empowerment, Andrés is active in arts organization Persona Contemporary, whose mission is to empower diversity and inclusion in the visual arts community. Andrés is a graduate of Watkins College of Art, and currently works as an Art Curator at Persona Contemporary. 
  • Thuy Rocco: Thuy is “the author of The Last Surviving Child: A Memoir, a collection of stories and poems about her refugee journey from the darkest moments of death, poverty, racism, discrimination, abuse, and depression to a life of survival. As a child refugee from Vietnam, she lost all of her siblings and father. Her mother braved seven journeys to escape their war-torn country. After several years in refugee camps, Thuy arrived in the U.S. in 1984 and grew up in poverty. After learning English as a young child, she became an interpreter for her family and their hope.” She was the first to go to college, getting degrees from Emory & Henry College and the University of Memphis, and now runs her own technology consulting company. Her story was featured in the short film “Playground English,” which was nominated for the Midsouth Emmy Awards. Thuy has spent over a decade empowering and mentoring immigrants and refugees, and she “hopes that her story will inspire others to be brave enough to share their story and to provoke compassion and understanding everywhere.”

Featured chefs and cuisines: 

  • Arazoo Ibrahim, Kurdish: Arazoo and her family were on a plane to Nashville in January 2017 when the travel ban went into effect. Although her husband had a special immigrant visa due to his work as an interpreter with a U.S. government contractor, Arazoo and her family was prevented from boarding their connecting flight at Cairo International Airport. TIRRC and Tennesseans organized to lobby for them to come to the United States. When they finally arrived at the airport in Nashville, about 300 residents were there to welcome them. Today, two years later, Arazoo and her husband own their own catering business in Nashville, Zoo’s Kitchen. To learn more about Arazoo’s story, watch this video, produced by New American Economy. 
  • Louisa Shafia, Persian (
  • Chez Lama, Haitian (
  • Delicious Catering, Columbian (


Thursday, October 17 from 6 PM to 9 PM 


Fort Houston, 2020 Lindell Ave, Nashville, TN 37203


This event seeks to highlight the many ways immigrants have shaped and revolutionized Nashville’s food and arts culture.  According to research by New American Economy, at just 7.8% of Nashville’s population, immigrants make up 16.2% of the food and restaurant industry overall, and 24.9% of chefs and cooks. 

“TIRRC is thrilled to partner with New American Economy to bring the inaugural New American Festival to Nashville,” said Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition’s Development Director Leah Hashinger. “As a city in the Southeast, Nashville is proud to have one of the most dynamic, diverse, and thriving New American communities in the nation. We look forward to showcasing some of our city’s best chefs, performers, and artistic talent at Fort Houston.”

“Nashville owes much of its vibrant and creative food, music, and arts scene to its diverse immigrant communities,” said New American Economy’s Katherine Steinberg, who is curating the national New American Festival. “By celebrating the invaluable cultural contributions of immigrants in Nashville and in other red states, we hope that this event can spark a change in how Americans on both sides of the political aisle engage with this issue.”

About the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:

The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. TIRRC believes that real and lasting change must be led by those directly affected by injustice, and for this reason community organizing and leadership development are the core strategies it uses to realize its vision. TIRRC brings together diverse immigrant communities throughout the state to examine root causes, find common interests, and organize for better conditions. TIRRC strives to lift up the voices of directly affected people and invest in leaders at the grassroots level, and to ensure its theory of change is reflected in the way it makes decisions, in the work it undertakes today, and in the course it sets for the future.

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