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New Ai Weiwei Installation At MIA Sheds Light On Refugee Stories

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - It's hard to miss the newest installation at the Minneapolis Art Institute. Every inch of the exterior pillars are covered in life jackets.

From far away, it simply looks like bright decoration. But really what's wrapped around the six pillars of the Minneapolis Institute of Art are thousands of life jackets; an installation by renown artist Ai Weiwei

Each life jacket tells a different story of migration. "You can't help but feel a little moved when you see all these life jackets worn by actual refugees," said CJ Gronner, a fan of Ai's work. Gronner came to see his latest piece, called "Safe Passage."

These life jackets were worn by Syrians and Afghans fleeing the war in 2015 who made the dangerous trek by sea to Greece. The life jackets were recovered in 2016 and donated to Ai.

Misty Rowan was one of many who came by to take pictures Thursday. She - and many - think the message of this installation is clear and bold.

"We loose sight the people, the humans. So I think it humanizes the discussion we're having," said Rowan.

This is the first time the "Safe Passage" installation has ever been in the United State. It is part of a bigger exhibit at the museum called "When Home Won't Let You Stay," a collection of art inspired by immigration and displacement.  The exhibit will be at the MIA through May 24th.

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