It was the “exploding head” emoji that inspired artist Guustie Bouten Alvarado to create the fused glass artwork on display at the downtown Dayton Metro Library.
Alvarado is one of the new Americans whose work is featured in a current exhibit in the downtown library’s second floor. The show, which also features art by students from the Dayton International School, will be on display through December 31.
When she heard about the call for artwork for the library’s New Americans Art Exhibit Alvarado thought of the emoji. She emigrated from The Netherlands in 1981 and says she and her husband – whom she met while he was a student at the University of Dayton– moved back to Holland in 1998 because she was homesick. “Then we moved back here because my husband, a Colombian immigrant, was homesick for the United States,” she says.
The pull between two countries is reflected in the glass piece Alvarado calls “mul-ti-cul-tur-al.” “I am trying to show the hidden cultures inside an immigrant’s mind, an entire world not seen by non-immigrants,” she says, referring to her fused glass piece affixed to a painted background. “When I saw the emoji with the brain exploding, that’s exactly how I, as an immigrant, sometimes feel. When I’m in Holland I’m not Dutch anymore; when I’m in America, I’m not like a real American. It’s like there’s two cultures in my head, like I’m fragmented. I almost believe every immigrant has a hidden culture in their brain. No matter how long I live here, my culture will always be there and define me.”
Gabriela Pickett plans programs
Gabriela Pickett, the Dayton Metro Library’s Newest American Specialist, is coordinating the art exhibit and is also responsible for supporting all 17 library branches. “My role is providing support to immigrants by promoting equity and access to resources including teaching English as a second language,” she explains. “I also empower people by facilitating cultural celebrations that allow them to experience their own culture and simultaneously enhance the receiving community.”
Credit: Jim Noelker
Credit: Jim Noelker
Pickett, who emigrated to the United States 33 years ago and has made Dayton her home for 22 of those, says she hopes to be the thread that stitches Dayton’s cultural fabric and makes this a much more colorful community.
In addition to three ESL classes each week, Pickett says the library and its branches have hosted everything from immigration law clinics and storytelling exchanges to a World Refugee Day.
Other featured artists
Credit: Jim Noelker
Credit: Jim Noelker
International students will participate
A large artwork mosaic by fourth through eighth grade students at the new Dayton International School at Residence Park was submitted by their art teacher, Judy Campbell White. “Between 40 and 50 of my students used a circular form to create their own ideas and express what they felt,” she explains. ”Then we pieced it together into one large collaborative piece.” Her students speak many languages and come from all over the world including the Congo, Uganda, Colombia, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia and Afghanistan.

High school students Lina Maria Gil Sanchez from Colombia and Nicolle Rodriguez Lobo from Costa Rica will also be represented in the show.

“I like to express myself through art because I do not always feel comfortable communicating my feelings through words,” Nicole says. ” I prefer to express myself through drawing and painting because it is more natural for me than speaking about my emotions.” She is exhibiting a watercolor painting of butterflies. “At first I just wanted to let off steam, and so my drawings used to have cold and dark colors,” she notes. These days, she says, she is painting more colorfully, expanding her subject matter and painting with materials she hadn’t used in the past.

Lina says she’s inspired by everything around her. ” I am inspired by each situation that I find myself in– from pastures, to the sky, to the rain, to the trees. For me, nature is everything – just like love.” Lina explains that the person pictured in one of her drawings can see through one eye, the other eye is hidden. ” It is almost as if to show that a person can be part of reality, and that a part of that person will also always remain hidden,” she explains.

Says an enthusiastic Pickett: “My job is evidence that the libraries of today go beyond having just books. We pay attention to the ever changing needs of our newest community and we try to meet them.”
What: New Americans Art Exhibit
Where: Downtown Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third Street. The exhibit is on the second floor of the library, next to the Community Room.
When: Through December 31. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. Closed for the holidays.
Parking: Free underground parking is available.
For more information:
Check out the library’s quarterly magazine that publicizes special events: dml-aug-oct-mag-2022.pdf (

About the Author

Meredith Moss has been writing for the Dayton Daily News for decades. She writes "On the Arts” features and the “Make a Difference” column focusing on non-profits. She volunteers and has received the YWCA's Woman of Influence' award and the Humanitarian award from the National Conference of Community and Justice. Email:


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