Between 1910 and 1940, as new immigrants flowed through the immigration station on Angel Island inside the San Francisco Bay, Chinese immigrants faced massive discrimination because of one of America’s earliest racist immigration legislation – the Chinese Exclusion Act. Being held for sometimes up to years in brutal conditions at the detention center, many of these immigrations looked for solace by inscribing poetry onto the walls of the center.

Your Wall is Our Canvas: the Angel Island Project” will bring these poems to life in the very space they were created. The oratorio composed by Huang Ruo, will be performed by the Del Sol String Quartet with the contemporary chamber choir, Volti, will weave a story of immigration and discrimination of then and now. The work will premiere on October 17 & 18, 2020 on Angel Island. The premiere will include TED-style talks with prominent experts in immigration law, civil rights, and Chinese-American cultural history.

Del Sol’s Charlton Lee notes, “Despite living in the San Francisco Bay Area, many residents have no idea about the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station. In California, more than a quarter of the population are immigrants and another quarter of those US-born have at least one immigrant parent! We are not only engaging the Bay Area community on their own history through this project, but we will also be working in outreach to encourage students to write their own immigration story or share that of a relative or friend.”

This project is supported in part by the Hewlett Foundation 50 Arts Commissions. Additional funding has been provided by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

THE IMMIGRANT YARN PROJECT at Fort Point

The Del Sol String Quartet performed for the opening celebration of THE IMMIGRANT YARN PROJECT at Fort Point on Friday, May 3, 2019. Led by Founder and Creative Director of Enactivist, Cindy Weil, the popular art exhibition featured eighty unique totems constructed from knitted and crocheted patches of yarn made by over 600 contributors representing generations of immigrants from every corner of the world — and included contributions from homeless communities, seniors, students, LGBTQ, Native Americans, a former Secretary of State, and descendants of Angel Island immigrants. The works were displayed from March 8 – May 19, 2019 on Fridays – Sundays, 10 am – 5 pm in the Fort Point National Historic Site under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

YOUR WALL IS OUR CANVAS: THE ANGEL ISLAND PROJECT at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School

Thanks to an Artists and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the support of the Dianne Feinstein ES PTA, the DFES community will enjoy special programming during the 2019-2020 year with the Del Sol String Quartet and teaching artist Andi Wong.

 9 Poems for “Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project”

A special poetry workshop, introducing the fourth grade classrooms to the history of the Angel Island poems, was held on January 16, 2020. By March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of planned events, and the school community was required to adapt to distanced learning online for students. The art, created by the students in times of great uncertainty, records an unprecedented time of isolation and imagination. We caught a glimpse of ourselves reflected in the poetry carved into the barrack walls on Angel Island, when the collaborative student poems were included in the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation’s first online exhibition, VOICES OF RESILIENCE, from May 1 through June 30, 2020.

On July 13, 2020, DFES students entering the fifth grade participated in a free summer music workshop with the Del Sol String Quartet to help create a book and recording of an original musical composition for the Angel Island Project.

Download a copy of the poetry book: https://archive.org/details/del-sol-quartet-your-wall-is-our-canvas-dfes-poetry-book

— Download an audio file of the musical composition: https://archive.org/details/dfes-poetry-del-sol-string-quartet

FAMILY ART NIGHTS at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School

DFES FAN #1: “HONORING OUR STORIES – OUR ANCESTORS” – Monday, November 18, 2019, 5:30pm-7:00pm Introducing the Angel Island Project and the members of the Del Sol String Quartet, we made first contact with a traveling warm up to “G Song” by Terry Riley. Kids interviewed their parents, as participants learned how to conduct an oral history interview. Del Sol performed “Tenebrae” by Osvaldo Golijov, and the children were invited to collaborate on work of art, an evening sky mural.

DFES FAN #2: “MY STORY, YOUR BOOK” – Monday, January 27, 2020 5:30pm-7:00pm Exploring the importance of storytelling and the written word through the art of bookmaking with Cheryl Ball and C.K. Itamura of BOOK ARTS ROADSHOW. The quartet wove a musical thread though the evening, opening and closing the evening with composer Huang Ruo’s string quartet No. 3, “Calligraffitti.”

DFES FAN #3: “THE POET’S TREE” – Monday, March 23, 2020, 5:30pm-7:00pm Celebrating World Poetry Day with the construction of The Poet’s Tree. (Cancelled due to COVID-19)

DFES FAN #4: “YOUR WALL IS OUR CANVAS: THE ANGEL ISLAND PROJECT” – Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 5:30pm-7:00pm A presentation of the musical compositions and poems written by DFES students with a performance by the Del Sol String Quartet. (Cancelled due to COVID-19)


“Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project” is supported in part by the Hewlett Foundations 50 Arts Commissions. Del Sol String Quartet’s partnership with Dianne Feinstein ES, was made possible thanks to an Artists and Communities Partnership – Creative Youth Arts (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.