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JJ Tiziou

Faces of Migration

JJ Tiziou, visual artist and community organizer

jj 4During his time exploring the Museum, JJ Tiziou was inspired by light, letters, faces, spaces, and the many objects and stories that most resonated with him and his work. He was particularly drawn to universal themes of immigration, education, freedom, and evolving American identities, and moved by how warmly welcomed he felt by staff and volunteers. He wanted the multi-faceted project he would create to help visitors existing and new connect to the Museum and our stories in ways that are meaningful to them, to find personal connections as he did (unexpectedly, he admits), and to feel as welcomed as he did.

The resulting project? A JJ Tiziou Museum takeover! He created an immersive visitor experience across four floors from the front door to the galleries and everything in between. He invited you to come check out his NMAJH project during summer 2016.

JJ'S OPEN PROJECT - on view through September 25, 2016
Core Exhibition Interventions: Tiziou’s relevant photographic works related to modern-day labor, activism, housing, and education issues were installed in the Museum galleries that feature historical images, objects, and stories on those same themes, posing questions to visitors that invite them to consider the themes and their contemporary relevance. 

A Confession & an Invitation: A series of museum staff and volunteer “family portraits” taken by Tiziou greeted visitors at the museum entrance in a window installation which included the artist’s handwritten introduction. To further welcome visitors, Tiziou also periodically set up his mobile office in the Museum Café and invited anyone to interrupt and say hello. 

Faces of Migration: To kick off OPEN for Interpretation: JJ Tiziou, NMAJH and Tiziou put out an open call for participants to have their photo taken during one of five free portrait sessions held at the Museum and around the city in conjunction with community partners Art Sanctuary, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Norris Square Neighborhood Project, and the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition. The resulting images became a photography installation on the Museum's conourse, featuring individuals who have themselves or in some generation of their families experienced migration or displacement. All were invited to a free public event at the Museum on Wednesday, July 20 for a behind-the-scenes look at the project with Tiziou and a reception which included a serving of the artist’s famous lentil soup. Faces of Migration closed on August 21, and the digital projections were on view through September 11.

Click here to read the stories of Faces of Migration community portrait participants.

Letters to You/From You : Letters authored by Tiziou that are inspired by letters in the museum’s collection were placed throughout the Museum’s Freedom Experiences—the entry area on each exhibition floor that features a wall of windows overlooking Independence Mall. Visitors were invited to compose their own personal notes at letter-writing stations. 

Click here for a sneak peek of JJ's NMAJH project in the Forward.

Jacques-Jean "JJ" Tiziou is a visual artist & community organizer. His primary media are photographic images and giant pots of lentil soup, and he has never encountered an un-photogenic person in his life. 
JJ has been recognized as one of Philadelphia’s “Creative Connectors” by Leadership Philadelphia, and is the recipient of the Spiral-Q Artist Activist Award. He makes photographs, hosts house concerts, and has walked the full perimeter of the city. His 85,000 sq. ft. How Philly Moves mural at PHL International Airport was recognized as one of the nation’s best public art projects by Americans for the Arts in their Public Art Network Year in Review.
Based at The Cedar Works in West Philadelphia, JJ uses his work to celebrate the beautiful people around him who are working to make the world a better place. You can find more of his work online at, and there's a message that he'd like to share with you at

OPEN for Interpretation featuring JJ Tiziou is made possible through the generous support of the William Penn Foundation.  Major support has been provided by Sherrill Neff and Alicia Felton, and Judith Creed and Robert Schwartz, with additional support from The Paul and Emily Singer Foundation and Drs. Marsha and Stephen Silberstein.  

Special thanks to Faces of Migration community portrait partner sites Al-Bustan Seeds of CultureArt SanctuaryCatholic Healthcare ServicesThe Moffet SchoolNorris Square Neighborhood ProjectNorris Square Senior Center, and SEAMAAC

Photo credit: Jessi Melcer


Faces of Migration
 Portrait Sessions 
Do you have a story to share about migration or displacement in your family’s history? To add your face to the mix and participate in JJ’s portrait project, Faces of Migration, register for one of the free sessions below. All participants will receive a digital copy of their portrait.  

Church of The Advocate
Saturday, May 21 from 10 am – 6 pm
1801 Diamond Street, Philadelphia, PA 19121 (North Philly)
With Art Sanctuary's Literary & Arts Conference & Outdoor Street Festival
Norris Square Senior Center
Wednesday, May 25 from 1 - 5 pm 
2121 N Howard St, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (North Philly)
With Norris Square Neighborhood Project

National Museum of American Jewish History
Saturday, May 28 from 10 am - 5 pm 
Sunday, May 29 from 10 am - 5 pm
101 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Corner of 5th & Market, Old City)
Includes free Museum admission for participants

The Moffet School
Tuesday, May 31 from 5 - 7 pm
127 West Oxford St, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (Kensington)
With Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture's Moffet Arts Celebration

Wednesday, June 1 from 9 am – 12 pm 
1711 South Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19148 (South Philly)
With the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc. (SEAMAAC)