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American Dreams | New free exhibit at the MACC in Rancho Cordova highlights art of refugees and immigrants

The American Dreams exhibit features work from 14 refugee and immigrant artists, representing at least nine different countries, who now live in the Sacramento area

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. — Large paintings hang on the walls of The Mills Station Arts and Culture Center, also known as MACC, in Rancho Cordova. They're part of a new exhibit called "American Dreams: The Art of Local Refugees."

Ri-Nu Imagination partnered with MACC to offer the exhibit to the public for free. Ri-Nu Imagination is a nonprofit established in 2018 with a mission to build community through art in the Greater Sacramento region.

CEO of Ri-Nu Imagination, Anu Aaltonen-Bond, is the first sibling born in America to her native Finnish family. As a self-taught artist, Anu says she's passionate about helping other artists thrive.

"We just really want to celebrate all of our diversity in these areas," said Aaltonen-Bond. "Finding artists that typically would not be shown at galleries, like MACC, and seeing them be lifted up and furthering themselves as artists means the world to me."

The American Dreams exhibit features work from 14 refugee and immigrant artists, representing at least nine different countries, who now live in the Greater Sacramento region. 

Anna Aksonova, who's from Kyiv, is an artist participating in the exhibit. She says she uses acrylic paintings to tell stories of the past, present and vision for the future.

"I came here because of the war and live with my friends," said Aksonova. "Art is like another life for me where you can live with beauty and dreams around you."

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With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Anna turns to art for a sense of comfort during difficult times but she says she remains worried about loved ones, like her daughter, who still in Ukraine.

"The fact that I can participate and do my art is a big happiness for me," Aksonova said. "But to all my friends, my relatives, my daughter and to everyone in Ukraine, I want to say that America is helping everyone and we are trying our best. I hope that we can all live under one peaceful sky."

Aziz Tokhi, who's also participating in the exhibit, uses art to highlight Afghan people, places, history and culture. He, along with his wife and children, left Afghanistan four years ago. With the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Aziz says he's grateful he and his family are safe in Sacramento.

"I miss my home because Afghanistan is my homeland," Tokhi said. "I can never forget my country and my people. I lost my everything in Afghanistan and I started my life with zero here in Sacramento. I'm happy being here. We will try to make my future and my family future here."

Ri-Nu Imagination is presenting the American Dreams exhibit from Aug. 31 to Sept. 9 at the MACC located at 10191 Mills Station Road in Rancho Cordova. There will also be a free documentary screening at the culture center for people to learn more about the artists and exhibit on Sat., Sept. 9 at 11 a.m.

"Through the exhibit and documentary, we want people to understand the importance of human kindness, compassion, understanding for one another and uniting. That's what this is all about," Aaltonen-Bond said.

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