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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

What Is It Like To Live In A Cage? Project Mariposa Art Installation Lets Visitors Experience ‘Inhumane’ Treatment Of Migrants In America

Influencers and community leaders hope the exhibit, which runs through Sunday, can spread awareness of family separations and deportations while calling for urgent solutions to protect migrants coming to the U.S.

“It’s inhumane to have people in cages. I think American systems dehumanizes those that it doesn’t value, or that it doesn’t see as their own,” Mashaun Ali Hendricks says.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — Inside a 64-square-foot chain-link cage, Mashaun Ali Hendricks lays on a thin cot.

He thinks about the detention facilities housing families along the U.S.-Mexico border, he says.

“It’s inhumane to have people in cages. I think American systems dehumanize those that it doesn’t value, or that it doesn’t see as their own,” Hendricks says.

Hendricks is among a half-dozen influencers and community leaders spending 24 hours inside the art installation named Project Mariposa. The mission is to spread awareness of family separations and deportations while calling for urgent solutions to protect migrants coming to the United States.

“I think people have forgotten or just don’t know what’s happening at the border,” the visual artist, educator and entrepreneur says.

In taking part in the installation, Hendricks hopes the issue can be addressed with urgency.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club
Mashaun Ali Hendricks is among a half-dozen influencers and community leaders spending 24 hours inside the art installation to spread awareness of family separations and deportations.

The installation is a joint effort by Healthy Hood, Vault Gallerie and the Right 2 Family Campaign. Project Mariposa is on display through Sunday at 2015 S. Laflin St.

Hendricks wants people to come away with a better understanding of the issue. He hopes it strengthens relationships between Black and Brown communities, too.

As an African American man in Chicago, Hendricks says it’s an opportunity to fight for justice for all communities of color facing injustice and suffering. 

Built by teen interns at Healthy Hood, the cage includes a cot and a tin foil blanket like the ones migrants get at border patrol and detention facilities. Spectators get a glimpse of life inside a cage.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
From left: Delilah Martinez, Mashaun Ali Hendricks and Tanya Lozano want to bring attention to family separations and deportations with an art installation at Vault Gallerie in Pilsen.

Healthy Hood founder Tanya Lozano said the installation is meant to highlight the broken immigration system and family separations.

While legislators debate a pathway to citizenship, Lozano says many “families are suffering because there are no current protections” for those housed in detention facilities.

From the conditions at detention facilities to the debilitating fear families face around deportation, “we want to challenge people to think about the issue in its entirety,” Lozano says.

“We want people to see for themselves what it looks like to see someone in a cage,” she says. “These are very real conditions. This is a reality” for migrants.

Delilah Martinez, the owner of Vault Gallerie, says the installation is a way to elevate the issue and reach people who don’t grasp the grim reality of detention facilities. 

Because news coverage has subsided, some people wrongly assume the issue is resolved, she says.

With different influencers and community leaders spreading the message to their networks, Martinez hopes the issue will bring change.

The group wants to take the installation to other parts of the country to continue the conversation and put pressure on the Biden administration to address the crisis. 

“I feel as though if we come together,” Martinez says, “we’ll somehow make a spark to create awareness and change.”

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club
Mashaun Ali Hendricks lays on a thin cot inside a 64-square-foot chain-link cage.
Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Project Mariposa aims to spread awareness of family separations and deportations while calling for urgent solutions to protect migrants coming to the United States.

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