Colorado photographer uses art to create an inclusive community

In June, Intercambio Uniting Communitiesa previous CLINIC highlight, celebrated its first photo exhibit: Stories of Friendship and Success, a unique showcase of relationships that developed from Intercambio’s English education work in Boulder, Colorado.

The exhibit traveled to libraries and galleries in three cities, highlighting the connection between English teachers and students, regardless of their differences. Intercambio was inspired to host an exhibit promoting integration after observing the division growing between immigrants and native-born citizens around the United States. Lee Shainis, executive director and co-founder of Intercambio, wanted to “capture the essence of cross-cultural relationships in the community,” so he turned to photographer Michele Cardamone.

Cardamone was the mastermind behind the portraits of student-mentor friendships presented by English in Action, another Colorado-based agency dedicated to helping immigrants learn English. When she was a mentor with the organization, she felt it was her responsibility to give back to the community. Using her talent as a professional photographer, she came up with the idea to capture the working relationships she observed as a mentor. 

Cardamone’s art not only showed the organizations’ value to the community, but it depicted the visual story of the individual’s journey to learn English and integrate into the community. Cardamone invited pairs to take the photos in her studio with picture perfect lighting and a nice backdrop. She also partnered with local professionals to get the photographs professionally framed and hung in local cafes and libraries around Basalt, Colorado.

As of today she has taken nearly 50 partnered portraits.

“It is important now more than ever to connect and understand those with different backgrounds and cultures” says Cardamone, who hopes the photos will help inspire others to befriend their immigrant neighbors.

CLINIC applauds Intercambio, Michele Cardamone and English in Action as they continue to capture the integration of their community.

The Center for Immigrant Integration wants to hear from you and your community members on ways you promote integration. Email us at or send us a tweet Twitter at @cliniclegal.



These photos are from the teachers and students of the ESL program and were captured by photographer Michelle Cardamone.