Making a cultural connection

A three-hour presentation for Indigenous Day was the kick off for “Migration: Connecting through Art and Culture of the Americas culture” month-long exhibit at the Great Falls Discovery Center.

From the pages of The Recorder

By Miranda Davis

Oct. 13, 2106

TURNERS FALLS — Don’t let the laughing, dancing and smiles fool you, the three-hour presentation for Indigenous Day had an important goal: Getting children to understand and embrace cultures that aren’t their own.

It was the kickoff for “Migration: Connecting through Art and Culture of the Americas culture” month-long exhibit. It is sponsored by Montague Catholic Ministries, the Guatemala Art and Culture Connection, the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the local immigrant and Native American communities.

The event, held at the Great Falls Discovery Center on Monday, offered a participants a chance to hear Native American oral stories and play games as a way to reframe Columbus Day into a chance to celebrate Indigenous cultures.

The exhibit currently on display at the Great Falls Discovery Center, is a collection of art, crafts, photos and maps that showcase the cultures of Central and South America.

Much of the artwork was brought to Turners Falls from Guatemala from Lorna and Imre Kepes, a local couple who became connected through the project because of Lorna’s work with the Montague Catholic Ministries. The Catholic ministries women’s center serves many Central and South American immigrants, and Lorna originally wants to bring the art to the center to help the women connect with their culture.

“That was the seed and it just kept expanding,” she said.

Eventually organizers started meeting together and connected with the Discovery Center, which happened to have a gap in its schedule for the month of October, and the exhibit fell into place shortly after.

“We wanted to see if we could put this up somewhere so they could really share their culture with the community,” said Susan Mareneck, the co-director of partnerships & development for the Montague Catholic Social Ministries.

Mareneck said they had a soft opening for some of the local families that was more private, because several of the families are undocumented, and the organizers wanted a chance for them to celebrate and see the art without concerns.

She said the exhibit serves as a way to not only connect local immigrants with their heritage, but connect the community to a culture it may not have been exposed to.

The kickoff, held this week, was part of that mission and a way to embrace native culture while reclaiming Columbus Day.

Loril MoonDream of Medicine Mammals and Strong Oak Lefebvre of Visioning BEAR Singers, did a combined presentation for the Indigenous Day.

“We want children to know that it’s fun to learn other people’s cultures and hear songs in other language and to recognize that there’s a joy and wonder about that,” Lefebvre said.

Lefebvre said that programs like this, which can help jump start children’s education of other cultures can also be preventative when it comes to violence, or even bullying of people who are different from them.

Kepes also hopes the exhibit can be a source of pride for local immigrants, many of whom told her they realized they hadn’t been teaching their children much about their heritage.

“The richness that they bring, that they haven’t been able to really appreciate themselves, can also enrich the community,” she said.

There will also be a closing ceremony for the event, with traditional food and dancing from the regions on Oct. 28 from 3 to 7 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

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