Utah artist named ‘Great Immigrant’ by Carnegie Corporation of New York

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SALT LAKE CITY – Every year, the Carnegie Corporation of New York honors immigrants who are making a difference in their community. A local artist, Selu Alofipo, whose work was recently recognized by President Obama, made the list this year.

On the Fourth of July, Alofipo’s family stakes their spot at Sugar House Park. It’s a day of fun and games and grilling.

Memories that add to the precious traditions he’s created in his adopted country of America.

“This never would have happened if my dad didn’t have the courage and have the resolve to move our family out of the islands of Samoa in 1983,” Alofipo said.

As a young boy trying to learn English, he used art to express himself.

“Art just came natural to me. It’s not something I went to school for,” he said.

Alofipo learned how to bone carve on his own. After winning several awards at art shows, he ventured into a new arena.

“I decided to take my bone carving images and spirit of that culture and my heritage and now put it on a canvas so people can hang in their homes,” Alofipo said.

One of his masterpieces now hangs in the White House.

In May, the artist was recognized by President Obama for his contribution to Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.

“It was cool to be there and to talk about my work and be in the same room as the President. I walked away from there even more inspired,” Alofipo said.

Now he can add another title to his resume. He’s been named one of 42 Great Immigrants by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Others on the list include: actor Jim Carey, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel and
Chef Wolfgang Puck.

While he welcomes the accolades, he says he is playing more to his most important audience.

“Those things aren’t really important to me. The things that are important to me are my family and my values and what not and if people seem to like it, I’m OK with that,” Alofipo said.

Click here for a full list of the honorees.