University of Arizona School of Art alumna Arlene Islas (BFA Photography, 2015) along with her colleague and fellow Wildcat alumna Sandra Westdahl (School of Journalism, 2012) recently won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Feature Reporting for their Arizona Public Media (AZPM) story “Where Dreams Die.”
The story also aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on June 8.
“Where Dreams Die” features local artist Alvaro Enciso’s efforts to honor the lives of more than 3,000 migrants who have died in the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona attempting to cross the U.S. border in remote, dangerous terrain due to changes in U.S. policy. Enciso has assisted the Tucson’s Colibrí Center for Human Rights connect family members.
“Ever since it aired, it has prompted all kinds of reactions from the community especially because of its humanitarian subject matter and our present political climate,” Islas explained. “The feedback has been positive, motivational and empowering. Visual storytelling not only raises awareness and prompts strong emotions but it can move people into action.”
Islas served as videographer on the feature; Westdahl was the producer/editor.
“It’s an honor to see that our hard work has been recognized with such a prestigious award,” said Islas. “It means that it’s made an impact and that some of the most phenomenal and respected journalists saw the value in it.
“It floored me. It feels surreal!”
Islas graduated in 2015 from the School of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, which has been recently renamed Photography, Video and Imaging. She worked as a Production Technician before accepting the position of Television Director at Arizona Public Media. Islas is now using her experiences as a visual artist to communicate compelling messages that evoke emotional responses. Since her days as an undergraduate student, she has been interested in creating work about her Mexican heritage. School of Art faculty member Carlton Bradford described Islas as dynamic and driven, and noted her undergraduate work addressed Hispanic identity issues for those living near the US-Mexico border. Having the opportunity to work for Arizona Public Media has enabled Islas to create work that is meaningful to her and to Southwestern border communities.
“The School of Art prepared me not only to understand the power of images, but also to understand our power as individuals, our role in the community as professional artists, and the responsibility that comes with conveying our identity and ethical values through our art. We hope that our story can inspire others to continue to raise awareness on similar topics and enhance interconnectedness in our society.”
In 2018, Islas also won two Emmy Awards at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and two Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.